THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Several important areas of study are included in the Book of Ephesians. One emphasis is that of building up the members of the one new Man to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Paulís customary exhortations to a holy, blameless life are included, with the remark that it is to this transformation of personality that we have been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world.
Paulís customary exhortations to a holy, blameless life are included, with the remark that it is to this transformation of personality that we have been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1)
As nearly as I can tell, the role of the apostle is to establish doctrine, whereas the prophet speaks the immediate burden of the Spirit and affirms the teaching of the apostle.
Perhaps the reason Paul emphasized his apostleship was that he was not one of the original Twelve who had been with Jesus. It may be that people questioned his authority because of this.
It also is true that the apostle is not sent by men but by the Lord. In this way the Church always has a fresh Word from Christ Himself.
Notice that Paul never wrote to "Christians." He addressed the saints, the holy ones. I donít know about you, but in my mind the term "saint" is stronger than "Christian." The word "Christian" today is applied to people who may be members of the Christian religion but are not "holy ones" by any means. They may know their denomination but in many instances they do not know the Lord.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)
We often think of grace only as "forgiveness." But I donít think Paul was saying "Forgiveness and peace to you." Do you? I define grace as the Presence of God in Christ bringing to us all we need to accomplish Godís will in our life. Does that definition fit here?
"May the Presence of God in Christ bringing to us all we need to accomplish Godís will in our life be to you, along with peace."
Does that sound reasonable? The reason I am emphasizing this point is that we are using "grace" today to mean only Godís perpetual forgiving and overlooking of our behavior. From my point of view the current definition is unscriptural and destructive.
The Christian salvation includes infinitely more than the forgiveness of our sins. It is true that forgiveness is a part of redemption and is included in our salvation. But if this were all there were to salvation, if there were no forming of new righteous people, then all would be lost. There would be nothing to look forward to in the new world other than the familiar pain and dread produced by sinful people.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
Under the old covenant, obedience to the Law of Moses resulted in material prosperity. Under the new covenant, obedience to the Holy Spirit may or may not result in material prosperity. But obedience to the Spirit always produces spiritual prosperity.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)
There are two concepts here: the concept of Divine election and the concept of the goal of the Divine election. Neither is being emphasized in our day, it seems to me.
First of all, our American ideal of everyone being created equal, having equal access to the pursuit of happiness (although this is not true even in the physical world), does not agree with the idea that God chooses some people to be closer to Himself than is true of others. The fact remains, however, that the Kingdom of God is made up of various ranks of holiness as determined by the Lord.
In spite of our American ideal, the only time at which any individual can find perfect fulfillment and joy is when he finds himself in that place in the Kingdom assigned to him or her. God has a role in mind for us and He forms us so we will be able to fulfill that role completely and perfectly.
Second, what is the goal of Divine election? It is not primarily to be saved from wrath, although salvation from wrath is included.
The goal of the election of the members of the royal priesthood is that each one be holy and blameless in Godís sight. This does not mean holy by imputation or blameless by imputation but actually holy and actually blameless.
We need today to move away from the unscriptural overemphasis on imputation. Imputation, righteousness ascribed to us but not actually true of us, is necessary when we first receive Christ. Otherwise how could God receive us? But to carry imputation beyond our initial receiving of Christ is to defeat Godís intention under the new covenant.
A kingdom in which the members were still bound in their adamic nature would be little different from what is true of us today. There would continue to be every distressing situation imaginable, including wars and rumors of wars. Godís will is not being done in such a kingdom, and were it to come to earth we would be no better off than we are today.
The current teaching is unscriptural to a great extent. By seizing upon and misunderstanding Chapters Three through Five of the Book of Romans, insisting that there is nothing we are to do be saved other than to make a profession of belief in Jesus Christ, the remainder of the New Testament has been rendered invalid. It is a masterpiece of satanic deception.
It is time now for the Church to arise and put on her beautiful garments, so to speak. The garments are not those of imputed righteousness but of the actual righteous actions of the saints.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8)
The bride makes herself ready by confessing and turning away from her sins. This is how she washes her garments in the blood of the Lamb.
In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and willóTo the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:5,6)
Has God predestined everyone to be adopted as His son? No. The term "church" means "called out." The Church consists of people who have been called out from the world in order to serve as a governing priesthood. They will be the rulers of the new world of righteousness. There shall be multitudes of people who are saved but who are not members of Godís royal priesthood.
God predestined us in love. All of Godís works are done in love, more so than we often realize. We tend to think theologically while God is moved by His great love.
God acts according to His own pleasure and will. This is the meaning of being saved by grace. God did not call us out from the world because we kept the Law of Moses better than most, or because of some other virtue of our personality. He chose us in Christ Jesus from the beginning of the world purely according to His own pleasure and will. We of the Church indeed are a chosen generation.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Godís grace That he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7,8)
What an unanticipated act of redemption the blood of the cross is! Could anyone have gleaned from the Prophets that God would use His Son as a Sin-offering?
Letís see if our definition fits "grace" as used above.
"The forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Godís Presence in Christ bringing to us all we need to accomplish Godís will in our life." That makes sense to me. The "Godís riches at Christís expense" definition sounds incomplete and self-centered to me! Also, to define "grace" as "unmerited favor" certainly cannot be confined to the new covenant. Everything God has done for us from the beginning of the worldóin fact, the creation of the world itselfóis unmerited favor.
Under the Law of Moses, atonement was made for sin by using the blood of animals. This atonement brought forgiveness but it left the worshiper with a sinful nature. The sinful nature would insure that it would not be long before he sinned again. You can imagine the consternation this would bring to a conscientious Jew.
The Day of Atonement was celebrated every year in recognition of the fact that the Israelites would continue to sin.
Christ came and made an eternal atonement through His blood. He will not be offered again. The atonement was made for the whole world.
Has everyone been forgiven? No, only those who come to God in faith, believing atonement has been made for their past sins.
What about the future sins of the Christian? It is presumed that he will count himself crucified with Christ such that his old life is over.
When the believer counts that his old life is over and he now is living in Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to show him the areas of darkness in his personality. He is to confess these to God as sin and then, through the help of the Spirit, turn away from them. As he does this, the atoning blood continues to forgive the areas of darkness remaining in his personality.
There was no provision under the old covenant nor is there under the new for willful, presumptuous sin. If a Christian who is not deceived or overcome with passion knows an action is sinful then goes ahead and sins in willful defiance, there is no forgiveness for this act. He has behaved arrogantly toward God and has despised the blood of the cross. He is in danger of the fire.
The atonement was made on the cross for all time. It shall not be repeated. This means the emphasis has switched from the need for an atonement, to spiritual warfare. The price for our deliverance has been paid in full, but Satan will not let us go. He is not honorable in this respect. So he must be crushed and driven from the earth by force.
Sin as a subject for study and preaching, and its relationship to the Christian believer, has been greatly misunderstood, I believe. We are under the impression once an individual has claimed Christ as his Savior, sin ceases to become an issue. The hastiest review of the New Testament will reveal that such is not the case.
After we receive Christ and are baptized in water we have a choice. We can choose to serve sin, or we can choose to serve righteousness. If we choose to serve sin we will die spiritually, even though we profess belief in Christ.
It is a fact that a Christian, having been forgiven his previous sins, still has a sinful nature. If he chooses to serve righteousness he increases in holiness. This is how he acquires more eternal life.
When we are saved we are given a portion of eternal life. We can choose to serve righteousness and receive increased eternal life. Or we can choose to serve sin and lose the eternal life we were given initially. We see then that while eternal life is the gift of God, it is not something that is just handed to us. It is more the gift of an opportunity to receive life initially; whether we grow in eternal life is our choice.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
Eternal life is the result of actions both God and we have taken.
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (Ephesians 1:9)
The Old Testament, by examples and by prophetic utterances, speaks of Christ who was to come. But the death of Christ on the cross; the fact that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the born-again experience in which the Word of God is written on our mind and heart; the outpouring of the Holy SpiritBall these and other aspects of redemption can be detected in the Old Testament. But how God would administer His grace remained a mystery.
The truth is, the Gospel of the Kingdom is a mystery to the present hour. The fact that Christ is the Chief Cornerstone in the Fatherís House and that there are other living stones is not presented clearly in numerous churches at this time.
But I think the mystery of Christ will be revealed in our day.
To be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillmentBto bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:10)
The expression "when the times will have reached their fulfillment" tells us that God is working on schedule and is in control of everyone and everything. We need to understand this fact thoroughly because of the age of physical and moral horrors we are entering. When we see the evil we will fret and perhaps panic, and thus be torn down from our high place in God.
When the passage above remarks that all things in Heaven and earth shall be brought together under Christ, I believe it is referring the creatures in Heaven as well as the creatures on the earth.
We know in the beginning God through Christ created the various angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, and whatever heavenly creatures there are.
Then God through Christ created the physical world with its people, animals, and plants. My personal belief is that the both the spiritual and the physical creatures died on the cross, so to speak. The entire first creation, the spiritual dimension and the physical dimension, came to an end on the cross of Calvary.
When the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead He was the beginning of a new creation. Christ is Head over all creatures in the heavens as well as on the earth. God is summing up all things in Christ. We can expect to see the Lord Jesus Christ reflected and revealed in all areas of the creation.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:11)
Notice so far the emphasis on predestination. Paul has taught us clearly that the world is in Godís control. God gave the Lord Jesus authority over all mankind. From the mass of mankind God brings to Christ people who originally belonged to God. God gives them to Christ that Christ might give them eternal life.
Christ does not pray for the world but for those whom God has given Him. No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws that individual. Then Christ chooses that individual as a member of the royal priesthood, of the eternal house of God.
We may think we choose Christ, but the truth is, Christ chooses us.
Then we have to increase in virtue in order to make our calling and election certain. We have to be careful that no one takes our crown. We have to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand in the evil day. We have to be careful to abide in Christ so the fruit the Father desires from the royal priesthood, which is the image of Christ in us, may be borne.
The royal priesthood is Israel, beginning with Abraham the father of all members of the one Seed. The members of Israel are always designated by the calling of God, never by physical birth.
Until we are fully able to grasp the sovereignty of God in the world we cannot understand the Bible. It may not seem fair to us Americans that God makes one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. We are not comfortable with the fact that God hardened Pharaohís heart. Our hearts are proud and rebellious. We are not always willing to permit God to be God.
We do not know enough about people or the creation to judge whether or not God is fair and righteous. We can trust that God is fair and righteous, or we can assert that He isnít. It doesnít matter. It simply does not matter. God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.
In spite of the fact that God is God and He will do what He chooses to do, I believe there always is a window of opportunity for anyone who wants to seek God, regardless of his or her assigned destiny. He or she can plunge through and gain the Divine blessing, like the Syrophoenician woman. The Lord told us there will be many children of the Kingdom standing on the outside while the tax collectors and prostitutes sweep past them on their way to the Kingís table.
In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:12)
First came Christ. Then the Apostles. After the Apostles will march the rest of the victorious saints. After the victorious saints will be Godís elect who did not attain to the ranks of the firstfruits. Finally every saved member of the nations will partake of the Spirit of God.
The victorious saints will demonstrate in themselves the victory of Christ. Through them God will be able to show the lords of the heavenlies, both the righteous and the wicked, the wisdom of God in selecting people and giving them to Christ.
Those who through Christ have overcome the evil forces in the world will continually offer praise to God, throwing down their crowns before the Throne. There has been through the centuries triumphant worship ascending to God as a holy incense; and this praise shall increase until Heaven and earth scarcely will be able to contain the glory and splendor of it all.
Thus Jesus Christ shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Godís possessionóto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13,14)
We who believe have been marked with a seal. What we Christians have now is a deposit on our salvation. Our salvation is the making alive of our dead, sinful body by the power of the Holy Spirit.
At some point in the early history of the Church, I suppose, we lost sight of the goal of salvation. The goal of salvation is the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, and the resurrection of our bodies so we can live once again on the earth.
Because of various pressures, the goal changed into eternal residence in Heaven. Then we invented a mythological concept of Heaven, until Heaven became in our mind a sort of wonderland. We included mansions, streets of gold, harps, and golden slippers.
Now that we are approaching the end of the Church Age we can see that the Gospel has to do with the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. This is the Day of Redemption, of Salvation, we are hoping for.
Especially important is the making alive of our mortal body. Since the making alive of our mortal body marks the destruction of the last enemy, which is physical death, the other enemies have to be overcome first.
The enemies, other than physical death, are our love and trust in the world spirit; the sinful nature that dwells in our flesh; and our self will. Until these have been overcome, we cannot eat of the Tree of Life and gain immortality in the body.
Now that we have been apprised of the true goal of salvation, and of forces that would prevent us from attaining the true goal, we understand the necessity for deliverance from the spirit of the world, from our lusts and passions, and from our self-will.
Many of us are hoping for a massive revival. In our minds we picture a great move of the Holy Spirit among hundreds of thousands of people so multitudes receive Christ, are baptized with the Holy Spirit, and healed of their various afflictions. May God grant such a gracious intervention.
But I wonder if the true and lasting revival will not be one in which Christians are convicted of their sins, turn away from them, take up their cross, and follow Christ.
The gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit have been given to the Body of Christ so each member might grow to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ. It is time now for the Christian leaders to turn their attention toward the maturing of the people already in the churches.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15,16)
Because Paul had heard of their genuine conversion to Christ, including their receiving the Holy Spirit, he was praying for them. Perhaps we do not pray enough for people after they have professed faith in Christ and have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We regard them as being safe in the camp, and now we look to see if there are others who need to be saved and filled with the Spirit.
This was not what Paul did. Paul understood that faith in Christ and being filled with the Spirit of God were not the fullness of salvation but only the merest beginning. We need to gain this understanding in our day, because the churches do not always address the need for the growth of the believers. Yet the gifts and ministries were given to produce growth to maturity.
I expect this blindness is coming from Satan, who is not afraid of a church filled with spiritual babies. It is when the believers press forward to maturity in Christ that Satanís kingdom is in jeopardy.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17)
There literally are hundreds of excellent commentaries of every description. The ability of the various Bible scholars is unquestionable. The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages have been investigated exhaustively. The bones of the Scriptures have been picked over until they are gleaming white.
But I have noticed that such excellent exegeses do not always yield truth, although they can be helpful when one is studying the Scriptures. How can we have all this scholarly material and not notice the errors of our day? How can we view the new covenant as one that does not regard our behavior as critical to our salvation? How can we keep on viewing the goal of salvation as eternal residence in Heaven when there is not a shred of Biblical support for such a notion?
The answer is, the writers of the Bible were not scholars. They did not write in a scholarly fashion. Jeremiah did not use Isaiah in his footnotes. John did not refer to Paul in his footnotes. Paul was a scholar, but he wrote by revelation and inspiration.
The Scriptures were written as holy men were moved by the Spirit of God. The Scriptures can be interpreted only as holy men are moved by the Spirit of God.
The only way we can know Christ is by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. When we are obeying the Lord, living a holy life, and asking the Lord for understanding of the Scriptures, we receive truthBtruth that will not be grasped by the most gifted commentator. The Bible is a spiritual book, and it is sealed until someone meets Godís requirements.
The fact that the Scripture are sealed can be frustrating to someone who is determined to master the Bible languages and the available commentaries, and then write a new commentary on some book of the Bible. Unless the Holy Spirit helps us, we will not add new knowledge that Godís people can use.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:18)
Remember, the saints at Ephesus had been saved and sealed with Godís Spirit. Yet Paul is praying that they may know the hope to which they have been called, the extent of the riches of Godís inheritance in the saints.
Would we pray this kind of prayer for a person who already has been "saved," as we use the term? Would we not assume they understood their hope?
As far as Godís inheritance in the saints is concerned, what is it? Do we understand even today that God has an inheritance in the saints? If so, exactly what is it? Is it not that God will have a living Temple through which He can bless and guide His creatures? Is it not that each stone of this living Temple will continually be offering praise and adoration to God? Is it not that God will have sons; that Jesus Christ will have brothers; that the Lamb will have a wife; that there will be an army of warriors and judges who will drive sin from the creation?
There is so much more of which we are unaware. We need to pray that all of us will be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; that we will be fully conscious of the scope of Godís inheritance in the saints.
And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, Which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:19-21)
Paul is praying that each one of us who believe will become knowledgeable concerning the power, the mighty strength, that is directed toward us. The power that is directed toward us is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at Godís right hand in the heavenly realms
That power placed Jesus Christ far above every other authority, especially above all the lords of darknessóthose of whom Daniel writes who resist the godly angels. We know little about the struggle that goes on in the spirit realm; but we do know Christ has been placed far above all angelic powers, both righteous and wicked.
There are various thrones in the spirit realm. High, high above them all is the supreme Throne. On that Throne sits a man with the scars of nails in His hands and feet. God has placed Him there, and there is no wicked lord of darkness who can threaten His supreme authority--now or in the future.
That same power that lifted Christ to the highest Throne is working toward us who have placed our faith in Christ.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22,23)
Jesus Christ is head over all authorities and powers, including the Church.
The next statement, "which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way," bears a lot of thought.
This means the members of the Church are an integral part of Christ. They are His fullness.
We have been saved. We have been filled with the Spirit. The next aspect of redemption for us is to become one with Jesus Christ.
Becoming one with Christ entails complete reconciliation to Christ in every aspect of our personality.
Our consecration to God must be absolute. There can be no point of wavering.
We must be set free from the love of the world, our bodily lusts, and particularly our self-will. Freedom from self-will often requires various imprisonments and fiery trials for a season while our personal ambition, youthful enthusiasms, goals, and motives are burned out of us. We must enter quiet, untroubled rest in Godís Person and will.
Christ must be formed in us. Christ is formed in us through many avenues and devices, including the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit; our response to pains and problems; our daily prayer and Bible reading.
We must learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our life, looking continually to the Lord Jesus for wisdom and strength for all our decisions and undertakings.
We must be filled with all the fullness of GodóFather, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Total oneness with Christ is required if we are to express Christ throughout His creation. We must be one with Christ, living by His body and blood as He lives by the Father. We are speaking here of the Oneness that exists between the Father and the Son. We are to become an integral part of that Oneness.
There is one supreme Godóthe Father.
Out from the Father has proceeded the Word. The Father has made the Word our Savior, Lord, Anointed Deliverer, and His Son. The Father and His Son are absolutely One in Substance and Spirit.
We are being made an integral part of the Oneness. We are being transformed by the manifold workings of God. We are being brought into untroubled rest in God. We are filled with the Spirit of God. Our inward nature has been born of God. We are learning to live by the body and blood of the Lamb of God. We are to be filled with all the fullness of God. The eternal moral law of God is being written on our mind and heart. In the Day of Resurrection our outward nature, our body, will be adopted by God as it is raised from the dead and made alive by the Spirit of Christ.
Christ represents and reveals the Father. We are to represent and reveal Christ. When the Father has brought every rebelling, contrary spirit under the feet of Christ, then Christ will be subject to the Father that the Father may be All in all throughout the creation.
In order to be made perfect in this Oneness we have to surrender our right to be an individual person independent of God and Christ. We never lose our uniqueness, however. But as Christ is part of God and not an independent person, so we must be willing to be part of Christ and God and not an independent person. We remain a unique person, but not an independent person. Such also is true of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whoever insists on remaining an independent person continues as a will other than the will of God. A will other than the will of God always brings chaos in the universe. Therefore whoever insists on maintaining his or her own will is looking forward to being a wandering star, a god separate from the one true God.
To become part of God rather than an independent will is a choice we have to make at some point. The sooner we choose to accept Godís will as supreme, the sooner we find security, fulfillment, and rest.
The question of the will may be the major decision facing Godís people at this time.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, In which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:1,2)
This passage also bears thought.
The standard set for believers is that they no longer practice transgressions and sins. They used to live this way but they do not any longer. I think the implication is that if they do continue to live as they did prior to professing belief in Christ, they still are dead. This would agree with Paulís statements in the Book of Romans that if we as a Christian continue to practice sin we will kill our spiritual life.
Since it is taught so plainly by the Apostle Paul that a Christian who persists in sinful behavior will reap spiritual death now and corruption in the Day of Resurrection, it is a marvel to me that this scriptural truth is not emphasized more than it is. If it were stressed I think there would be a moral revolution in the churches.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)
Isnít Paul saying here that if we gratify the cravings of our sinful nature, following its desires and thoughts, we are by our nature objects of Divine wrath?
I think we have made salvation something that it isnít. Our teaching today seems to be that professing belief in Jesus Christ means we no longer are objects of Divine wrath regardless of whether or not we continue to obey our sinful nature. And we have derived this wretched doctrine by wresting the writings of the Apostle Paul!
Yet the implication in the above verse is that as a Christian we no longer are gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.
"But," we may protest, "even though we gratify the cravings of our sinful nature we will be saved anyway by grace."
Can we be the objects of Divine wrath and still be saved? I believe we Christians are following a deluding spirit. Whoever continues to live in the sinful nature is no friend of God!
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, Made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsóit is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 3:4,5)
When we still were living in our sinful nature, blinded by the god of this world, God brought us to Jesus Christ. We were spiritually dead, and now we have eaten of the Tree of Life and are alive.
When Paul speaks of "grace" he means our being brought to Christ was not earned by us. God did not look down to see who had earned salvation by adhering to the Law of Moses or to any other moral code. Rather God selected us according to His own inscrutable will and pleasure and opened our eyes so we could see the slain Lamb on the cross.
Therefore we cannot boast about our own goodness.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
This is true of us now. We already have been raised and seated with Christ. We are on the highest throne, our sins having been forgiven.
Now our task is to stand. It is to prevent anyone from taking our crown of life.
So many forces seek to tear us down from our high place in God! If we are not careful to follow the Lord each day, we may discover there are relationships, things, or circumstances that are getting between us and the Lord. This is a dangerous situation.
Fear can tear us down. Lust can tear us down. Worrying about the cares and responsibilities of life in the world can tear us down. Unforgiveness and bitterness can tear us down.
There is no authority or power great enough to separate us from Godís love in Christ. But we can be seduced. Satanís actual authority and power were destroyed on the cross. But Satan is an exceedingly skillful deceiver.
Sometimes Christians are under the impression they cannot be deceived. They are mistaken. They have underrated their enemy.
For example, there is considerable deception in todayís Christian preaching and teaching. The idea being that if Christians sin, God sees them only through Christ. They are perpetually, unconditionally forgiven from now to eternity. This is a gross deception and has destroyed the moral strength of the Christian churches.
The concept of a "rapture" that will remove us from the earth before we suffer is a deception. And there are many others.
We can be deceived personally, thinking we are serving God when we are not. On some occasions it is God Himself who has deluded us because we did not love His truth.
Can God keep us at His right hand in Christ? Absolutely!
Can we lose our crown, our place in Christ, if we do not live as a disciple? Absolutely.
Living as a disciple means we have denied ourselves and are carrying our cross behind Jesus each day. It is our personal cross that keeps us from being deceived. It is when believers try to avoid suffering, avoid that which is unpleasant, refuse to remain in unpleasant situations, that they open themselves to deception.
When we truly receive Christ we are completely forgiven and lifted to the highest throne of all. But then we have to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand in the evil day; in the day when our position in Christ is threatened through fear, unbelief, lust, ambition, or any other force or idol that attacks us.
This present world is a battleground filled with opposing forces. To forget that, to try to live as an average American, planning our retirement so we can eat, drink, and have fun is to invite destruction. Our fellow saints in the world are battling for their very survival. And we are having our backyard barbecues and planning our carefree trips across the country! God will never accept this. Without doubt we will lose our crown unless we come to ourselves and get right with God.
In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)
We who remain true to the Lord have a great hope for the future! That hope is as a joy that is set before us and helps us bear our cross patiently.
The term "grace" in the passage above, "the incomparable riches of his grace," is not referring to forgiveness.
I have heard it taught that God will be forgiving us forever because we can never please Him. We are sinful and shall continue to be sinful, but God will shower us with forgiveness.
That is not sound teaching. Do we not realize sin is a problem with relationships? If people continue to sin they will be harming one another. How can we enjoy Paradise if we are injuring each other?
The incomparable riches of Godís grace is not referring to an eternal process of forgiveness, but to the joy and glory that shall be assigned to those who through the Lord Jesus Christ gain victory over sin. It is the overcomer, not the loser, who inherits all things.
The conquerors have been forgiven and also delivered. Therefore they are trees of life to those around them, not sources of pain and confusion as is true of all who persist in living in the sinful nature.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithóand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of GodóNot by works, so no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
This verse was given to me when I first became a Christian. I would imagine that numerous people have been brought to the Lord by this text.
I was told, and believed for years, that the meaning is: you are a sinner; you cannot save yourself; if you place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ you will go to Heaven when you die; this is Godís gift to you, it has nothing to do with your righteousness or lack of it. Since your salvation is a gift of God, you have no occasion to boast.
All of this is true. The problem is, it leaves the believer with the idea there is nothing he is to do for the rest of his life except believe Christ has saved him. The good fight of faith is the fight to keep on believing what he has been taught, it is taught..
There are many fine Christians who believe this way. They read their Bible each day. They pray each day. They support their local church. Some of them go as missionaries or engage in other types of Christian work. But they do not see these worthy practices as being related to their salvation. They are saved by forgiveness (grace), and by forgiveness alone. They ought to try to do good, but if they do not they will still go to Heaven because they have been forgiven.
If they are tempted severely enough they may fall because of their belief that their salvation (eternal residence in Heaven) cannot be affected by their behavior. Sometimes their self-will causes harm to their fellow Christians. They may be filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues. They may, at the same time, slander their brothers and sisters in the Lord and cause much bitterness.
Let us change the definition of salvation. Let us agree that salvation is of the Lord. We cannot earn it. It has been given to us by the Lord. But suppose for a moment that to be saved is not only to be qualified to enter Heaven when we die, but also to be changed from an adamic soul into a new creation in Jesus Christ. Now the good fight of faith changes from persisting in our belief that Christ has forgiven us and we are on our way to Heaven, to overcoming each day the forces of the enemy that would seek to keep us in bondage to the spirit of the world; to keep us gratifying the appetites and lusts of our sinful nature; to keep us clinging to our self-will instead of learning to obey Godís will instead of our own.
Then it still is true that we have been saved by grace through faith. It still is true that our faith is the gift of God. And it still is true that we are not saving ourselves by following a moral code, such as the Law of Moses.
The first interpretation tends to be static. You will find faithful people in churches who have not grown spiritually over a period of forty years. They still are basically the same person as when they began to believe in Christ.
The second interpretation is intensely dynamic. It seems just about every day there is a part of our personality that dies in Christ and is born again, shall we say. We actually are becoming a new righteous creation in Christ.
So if we view Ephesians 2:8,9 as a gift of forgiveness with a view to going to Heaven, as I was taught at the onset of my salvation experience, we probably will not grow past the Pentecostal experience. The truth is, being forgiven through the blood atonement, and being baptized with the Holy Spirit, are the tools that we need to press into the program of salvation, not the salvation itself. The program of salvation consists of a daily putting to death of our first personality with the consequent emergence of a new Christ-filled personality.
Now, why do so many passages of the Epistles stress righteous behavior? The reason is, if we are to keep on passing from death to life we have to keep on putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature. We have to be reminded of this continually; otherwise we take our eyes off Jesus and begin to drift along in our comfortable religion.
If we say we have to do the works commanded in the New Testament in order to please God, immediately we are accused of preaching works; of seeking to earn our salvation. It is not that we are seeking to earn our salvation by working for it. It is, rather, that we are endeavoring to keep up with the program the Holy Spirit is bringing us through.
The program of the Holy Spirit does not consist solely of maintaining theological truth. The program is a daily pressing into Christ that we might attain to the resurrection from the dead, as the Apostle Paul taught us.
We have to "save ourselves" by living righteously, as Paul wrote to Timothy. We have to be laying aside all else, as the Spirit leads, so we may gain Christ. This is a radically different approach to salvation than that of maintaining continually that we are saved by grace.
In fact we are saved by grace, but it is the grace of chastenings that keep pressing us into the Lord Jesus. Very often the grace is a cross that keeps us praying night and day that we might maintain our peace and joy in the Lord.
We indeed are saved through grace, and our salvation is not something we earn or put together. But that grace includes many dealing of the Lord that are designed to put to death our own adamic nature and bring forth the new Christ nature. And we have to have faith if we are to continue in the program of redemption, because it can be quite challenging.
For we are Godís workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
God is creating us in Christ that we might do good works. This reminds us that we are to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God.
To my way of thinking, the good works we are to do consist of what we might term righteous deeds. The showing of kindness, for example. Being honest with other people. Telling the truth. Being a peacemaker. Forgiving those who harm us. Living a clean moral life. This is the true Christian testimony, and it often is more effective than the preaching of the Gospel.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12)
We instruct the believers to "go out and tell others about Jesus." This may be fruitful on some occasions. But Christian people do not always have a good reputation in the world. We may talk about our religion, but then we do not show kindness, honesty, truthfulness, forgiveness, and moral purity. God would rather have us show these virtues than preach about our religion.
The New Testament does not advise us to tell everyone about Jesus. It commands us to live good lives. If all the Christians in America lived good lives, the worldly people would glorify God. That is what the Bible teaches.
Religious people usually place teaching about their religion as a higher priority than living a good life. In this they are not in agreement with the Lord.
God prepared our good works in advance. How far back does the preparation go? Back to the beginning of the creation. It was at that time God called you to be a royal priest. It was at that time God prepared kindness, gentleness, and honesty. He knew in advance that these virtues would be important in our day. So He prepared them. Then He brought us into the world that we might practice them and thus cause the pagans to glorify God.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)ó(Ephesians 2:11)
Next the Apostle Paul is going to discuss our relationship as Gentiles to people who are Jewish by birth. There is much confusion over this relationship to the present day.
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12)
One of the destructive teachings of our day is that there is a "Gentile Church." There is no Gentile Church. There is only the one Church. Until we are included as part of Israel, the one Church, we are separate from Christ and foreigners to the covenants of the promise. When we truly are part of the Lord Jesus Christ we are part of Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is Israel, according to the strictest interpretation of the term. He is the one Seed of Abraham.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
To what have we been brought near? We have been brought near to citizenship in spiritual Israel; to the covenants of promise; to hope; to God.
Can you see that God did not authorize a Gentile Church? Rather, the Gentile who would answer Godís call in Christ must draw near to the one true Olive Tree.
The blood of Christ has made it possible for us Gentiles to draw near to the one true royal priesthood of God. Originally the royal priesthood consisted only of physical Jews. Since the resurrection of Christ, the royal priesthood consists of a remnant who are both Jews and Gentiles by physical birth. After the full number of Gentiles have been added to the one Olive Tree, the Lord will turn again to the physical land and people of Israel and all Israel will be saved. The Deliverer shall come from Zion and remove the sins of the Israelis.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, (Ephesians 2:14)
Because God chose the Israelites as a holy nation, there has been a dividing wall of hostility between the Israelites and the Gentiles. But now we share the one Sin-offeringóJesus Christ, the Lamb of God. This makes Jews and Gentiles one people in a manner not possible by any other means
By abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:15)
It is the Law of Moses with its commandments and regulations that is the wall that divides the Jews and the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul states that Christ abolished in His flesh the wall, the Law of Moses.
How did Christ do this? Christ abolished the Law of Moses in His flesh by keeping the Law perfectly, and then permitting Himself to be nailed to the cross. From Godís point of view, because Christ had kept the Law perfectly, and then suffered the penalty for breaking the Law, the law was effectively abolished. I do not fully understand why Christís crucifixion abolished the Law, except that Christ completely fulfilled the Law, and then was crucified.
It may be that since Christ kept the Law, and then paid the penalty for breaking the Law, it authorizes Christ to transfer His purchased righteousness to any individual who agrees to serve Christ. God cannot object, because His law was kept. Satan cannot object, because the law was kept.
An atonement was made by the shedding of the blood of the righteous Christ. Godís sense of justice thus has been appeased. Satanís willingness to accuse has been thwarted. He cannot accuse someone whom Christ is shielding with His blood.
One new Man! I donít know as I have ever heard anyone regard the Jewish and Gentile Christians as one new Man.
We sometimes hear of a Jewish Church and a Gentile Church, but not of one new Man.
What about the Jews who have not received Christ but still observe the Law of Moses. Are they part of the one new Man?
No, they are not. They have been broken off the Olive Tree. There is only one Seed of Abraham. The Lord Jesus Christ and those who are part of Him are the one Seed of Abraham. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, only the one new Man.
As I said, after the full number of Gentiles have been grafted on the one Olive Tree, which is Jesus Christ, God will turn again to the physical land and people of Israel. He shall take away their sins at that time. Not just forgive their sins. According to Paul, God shall remove their sinful nature. He actually shall take away their sins!
But in the present hour there is only the one new Man. All the Messianic promises of the Prophets apply to the one new Man. The one new Man inherits the promises made to Abraham.
The one new Man is the true Church. It has not replaced Israel, it is Israel. While the term "Israel" is applied to the physical people and land, true, eternal Israel consists of each person whom God has called to Himself. Every Jewish person is invited to become a part of true Israel, of his promised Christ. There is no other Christ; no other sin-offering; no other seed of Abraham; no other olive tree.
The Jewish person should have no misgivings about coming to his own Christ. Jesus was born and raised in a Jewish household. Christís Apostles, the writers of the New Testament, were Jews. It is we Gentiles who have to leave our own background and join ourselves to a salvation that is of the Jews. And this we shall do, because we are unwilling to be denied salvation.
The Gentile preachers who speak of a Gentile Church that is going to go to Heaven while Godís original people, the Jews, are left on the earth to battle the Antichrist, are grossly deluded. They do not understand their own salvation.
As for the Jews who receive Jesus, let them remain with their Jewish background. They have not become Gentiles. They are the brothers of Christ, and should have nothing whatever to do with an unscriptural "rapture of a Gentile Church."
And in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:16)
There is only the one Sin-offering. It is the Son of God, the Christ, slain on the cross. The atonement was made for the Gentile, and he must receive it if he is to be accepted by the Lord.
The same atonement was made for the Jew. He must receive it if he is to be accepted by the Lord.
There is talk even among Gentile Christians about observing the Torah. I think this is a romantic notion more than anything else. It is not possible to observe the Torah at the present time. The Aaronic priesthood and the animal sacrifices are a large part of the Torah. Since there is no temple, there can be no animal sacrifices as an atonement for sin.
So the observant Jew has no way of receiving the blessing of an atonement. No bull is slain. No male or female goat is slain. He is without an atonement for his sins.
But a perfect atonement is available. It was made by the Christ, by the Son of God, on the cross of Calvary. All Jews are welcome to come and have their sins forgiven. All Gentiles are welcome to come and have their sins forgiven. So there is peace between Jew and Gentile, and peace with God. The one new Man has made peace. Unto us a Son has been given, and he shall be called the Prince of Peace.
He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17,18)
Christ came and preached peace with God to the Gentiles and to the Jews. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
The Law put God in an adversarial relationship to man. God said "you shall." Man said "I canít, although I want to."
Jesus Christ came and said, "Come to Me and I will give you rest. I will bring you to the Father through Myself. I am the Way." He Himself is the Reconciliation of God to man and man to God.
Then the Christ ascended to Heaven and poured out His Spirit on the waiting Jews, and then on Cornelius and the Gentiles. Now believing Jews and believing Gentiles have been made one, not only by a common atonement but by sharing the same Holy Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Godís people and members of Godís household, (Ephesians 2:19)
We Gentiles were foreigners and aliens. Now we are fellow citizens with the Jews and members of Godís household.
Can you see how inappropriate it is to speak of a Gentile Church? We think the Jew has to leave his cultural inheritance and become a Gentile in order to be a Christian. It is not so. We Gentiles are the foreigners. It is we who have to leave our heathen ways and become part of the holy nation, the royal priesthood.
Some Gentile Christians are feeling a strong drawing to the physical land and people of Israel and want to assist the Jews in any way possible. I can understand this drawing, given that our Bible and our Savior are of the Jews.
I do not think it is a good idea, however, to go back to the Law of Moses and try to observe some of the statutes. The Apostle Paul spoke against this tendencyBeven against circumcision. The observance of any part of the Jewish law will only remove our eyes from Christ. Christ fulfilled the Law in His flesh, and now He wants us to look to Him for every aspect of our daily living. To seek to return to the Law succeeds only in bringing us into bondage.
And donít forgetBthe Lord Jesus wants to get some fruit for His table from the Arab nations. So we as Christians, while greeting our Jewish brothers warmly, must not be biased against any other nation. They all are part of the inheritance of the Lord Jesus, and also of us.
Once we draw near to God through the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus, we now are members of Godís household.
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20)
All of us Christians are being built on the foundation laid by the Jewish Apostles of the new covenant, and the Jewish Prophets of the old covenant. God is building a house, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone.
In the Fatherís house there are many rooms, or we could say, many living stones. The whole structure is the eternal Temple of God, the ChristBHead and Body, the royal priesthood.
Isaiah is part of the foundation. So is the Apostle Paul. We are built on all that has gone before.
We are close to the hour when the Capstone, Christ Himself, will descend and complete the structure.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:21)
This is the reason we were called out of the world. God desires a living house through which He can communicate with all of His creatures. We have been chosen to be part of the great house of God.
The eternal house of God is ChristBHead and Body. Christ went to the cross, and then ascended to Heaven and cleansed the sanctuary there. He did all this in order that He might prepare a place in God for us, and in us for God.
This is the mystery of the Gospel. It is Christ in us, the hope of the glorious new world of righteousness that will appear as soon as God places the enemies of Christ beneath His feet.
The best is ahead of us. Yet all depends on our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He brings us into perfect union with the Father through Christ.
As I said previously, it is of the utmost importance that we bring our will into line with Godís will. It is only as we truly receive Jesus as Lord, being willing to serve His slightest wish, that we can partake of the glory that is at hand.
Jesus Christ obeys the Father perfectly. We are to obey Jesus Christ perfectly. If we are to move past the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost into the spiritual fulfillment of the last and greatest observance, the feast of Tabernacles, we absolutely must settle the question of whose will we are going to obeyBours or Godís.
Obviously, God cannot dwell in peace in a temple in which some of the stones have a mind and will of their own. God cannot settle down to rest in us until we are delighted to do His will in every aspect of our thinking, speaking, and behaving.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
This is the whole meaning and purpose of our life. We were chosen from the beginning of the world that we might be a room in the eternal dwelling of God.
God lives in us by His Spirit. If my understanding is correct, this does not mean the Spirit, who is a Person in His own right, is a substitute for Christ or the Father in us. It means the Spirit is the first Person of the Godhead to dwell in us.
As the Spirit dwells in us He prepares us to be the dwelling place of the Father and the Son. They can enter us through the place prepared in us by the Spirit. It is Godís will that we shall mature to the point that all three Members of the GodheadBFather, Son, and Holy SpiritBare able to find perfect rest in our personality.
We have to step off the throne of our personality for a season until it is absolutely clear that we always will do Godís will in every instance. When God is satisfied that our obedience is complete, then we will be able to join the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the throne of our personality. This is our ultimate calling, the completion of the work of redemption in us. It is not the conclusion of our growth in the LordBbut only the beginning of our growing into the image of our Father, who has given birth to us through His Word.
Until we learn total obedience, none of this glory is possible for us.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentilesó (Ephesians 3:1)
Paul was in prison in Rome when writing this letter.
Paul might have found it hard to believe simple letters written while he was in distressing circumstances would change the history of the world; would still be a source of guidance and life to people two thousand years later.
So it is true if we are absolutely faithful in what God gives us to do, even though we may not always be comfortable and happy while doing it, eternal fruit will be borne that will help establish the Kingdom of God.
Surely you have heard about the administration of Godís grace that was given to me for you, (Ephesians 3:2)
The term "administration" in the King James Version is translated "dispensation." Perhaps this is where the unscriptural, destructive philosophy of Dispensationalism derived its name. Nowhere in the Bible is there a hint that God moves in dispensations such that His Nature, goals, and ways of dealing with people change. This harmful doctrine effectively cuts off the believers from the needed guidance and understanding found in the Old Testament.
Notice that Godís grace was given to Paul in order to benefit others. May all of us who minister Godís Word have this same attitudeBthat what God has given to us is for the benefit of others. This is why we must never attempt to live as an ordinary person of the world but continually keep in mind that we have been entrusted with Kingdom resources that are to be shared with others.
Woe be to us if we bury our talent and occupy ourselves with the cares of the present world!
That is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. (Ephesians 3:3)
The "administration of Godís grace" that was given to Paul was the mystery concerning Christ. Paulís insight into the fact that Christ is in us; his understanding of the transition from Moses to Christ; his awareness that Christ will have a Body (a fact not mentioned by anyone else)óthese and other truths were given to Paul by revelation.
I believe one of the main roles of an apostle is to be taught doctrine directly by the Lord Jesus Himself. If biblical truth is handed down from human to human it soon accumulates error. There must be someone who hears directly from the Lord if we are to know Christís plan for the present.
In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, Which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to Godís holy apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 3:4,5)
It appears there do come times in the history of redemption, and of the Kingdom of God, when the Lord brings us a step forward toward the consummation. It certainly was true in the time of the Apostle Paul, as God revealed the meaning of the utterances of the Hebrew Prophets.
I think today is one such time. I believe the Lord Jesus is revealing to us the Fatherís plan concerning the building of a living temple for Himself, and concerning the various roles and tasks that will operate in the Kingdom of God.
The things the Lord is showing us have always been in the Bible, but now they are being given fresh meaning. Of particular note is the significance of the final three feasts of the Lord: the blowing of Trumpets; the Day of Atonement; and the feast of Tabernacles.
Another of the new emphases is that the goal of our salvation is not eternal residence in Heaven but change into the image of Christ, and entrance into untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. Certainly this doctrine has always been in the Scriptures, but somehow it was hidden to us. I guess this is so, because we donít often hear the true goal of salvation preached. People are still talking about "mansions in Heaven."
A further understanding is that concerning the "rest" of GodBthat the rest of God, spoken of in the Book of Hebrews, is rest in the Person and will of God.
Also there is the idea of attaining to the resurrection, which the Apostle Paul cites as his goal. You almost never hear this preached.
So many insights are being given today by the Lord Jesus. They always have been in the Bible. But they sometimes run counter to our most venerable traditions.
The most destructive error of our time is the teaching that grace is a substitute for keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. I am not certain how this error began, but it so clearly is unscriptural that it is remarkable it is subscribed to by intelligent, devout Bible scholars.
It may be true that God is bringing us fresh understanding today so the accumulated traditions may be replaced by the Scriptures.
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:6)
The aspect of the mystery of Christ that Paul is stressing in the immediate text has to do with the fact that the Gentiles are members of the same body as the Jews, and share with them in the Divine inheritance.
We must keep in mind that when the Holy Spirit first was given, He fell on Jewish believers. There must have been a prolonged struggle in Paulís day as Jews somewhat grudgingly accepted the fact that Gentiles could be saved; could receive the Jewish salvation that was prophesied by Jewish Prophets.
We scarcely are aware of this struggle today. We have come to regard the Christian salvation as being primarily Gentile in character, while the Jew is on the outside.
It was not so in the beginning. It will not be so in the last days. God shall turn again to the physical land and people of Israel. Then we Gentiles will be thankful to be included in what primarily is a Jewish salvation.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of Godís grace given me through the working of his power. (Ephesians 3:7)
Paulís conversion on the road to Damascus is a remarkable example of the sovereignty of God in the plan of salvation.
Paul did not hear the Gospel and then receive it. As far as we know he was making no effort to find Christ. Yet for some reason his conscience was troubled.
Letís put it this way: the Lord just reached down and saved Paul. The Lord commanded Paul to be saved. Paul really did not have much of a choice. He was disoriented and blinded.
I think it will be this way after the full number of Gentiles have been grafted on the Olive Tree. I think the Lord will reach down and save the physical land and people of Israel, removing sin from their midst in the process. God has this kind of power, you know.
If this is true, why does he not save everyone in the world?
The reason is, by leaving so much evil in the world God is providing a testing ground for the rulers of the ages to come. Godís rulers are not to be merely righteous. They are to be militantly righteous. That is, they are to be qualified and competent to command others to behave righteously, as well as being righteous themselves. They are destined to serve as priests, rulers, and judges.
The evil in the world is used by the Lord as a training ground. Whoever can gain victory over evil in the present world will be able to govern in the next. But those who do not gain victory over evil in the present world are neither qualified nor competent to return with Jesus Christ and govern the nations. It is just as simple and straightforward as this.
God is finding out today what we would do if we were trusted with greater authority and power.
As far as the people of the world are concerned, each one has a conscience. He can choose to do what is right or choose to do what is wrong. God causes no one to sin. All anyone needs to do to be saved from wrath is to live a decent and honorable life; accept the blood atonement if it is presented to him; accept the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lord whom God has chosen; and be baptized in water. If the Gospel of Christ is never presented to him, then God will judge him in terms of what knowledge of God and righteousness he has had.
The current teaching that if we have never been presented with the Gospel we still shall be condemned for not having received Christ, is abhorrent to any fair-minded person. It is unjust, and God is not unjust. But religion has a way of distorting ordinary reasonable judgment.
Although I am less than the least of all Godís people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (Ephesians 3:8)
I donít know why Paul would claim to be less than the least of Godís people. Do you or I feel as though we are less than the least of Godís people? I suppose it is a desirable attitude to have. This attitude of humility probably comes from Paulís remorse over the way he treated Christian people before he was converted.
The Lord pointed out that Paul was kicking against the goads. This suggests Paul was impressed with the godly attitude of Christians when they were arrested. He may have been troubled when he was abusing people who did not fight back against him but turned the other cheek, and was struggling against his conscience because of this.
No doubt the memory of those innocent, godly people meekly submitting when they were persecuted remained with Paul throughout his life, keeping him from viewing himself as a noble individual worthy of praise. Sometimes the Lord allows us to make fools of ourselves so we will understand salvation is of the Lord and not of ourselves.
And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (Ephesians 3:9)
Several of the Apostles wrote epistles to the churches. But the letters of Paul have been the backbone of Christian theology. The epistles of John, Peter, and Jude are largely exhortations to godly living. But Paul revealed the major truths of the GospelBtruths misunderstood to the present hour but now being opened to our understanding by the Holy Spirit.
When you think about it, it is remarkable that God would trust to one individual the major elements of the new covenant. But that seems to be the way the Lord works, doesnít it. We think of the way God used Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Aaron, the Prophets, and John the Baptist. So much depended on one person.
Have you noticed that when we are teaching children we speak of Daniel in the lionsí den, Elijah, David, and John the Baptist? We donít ordinarily use the millions of Israelites as our example.
This is the way God works. This is why we must never be unduly influenced by the majority of religious people, but must go directly to the Lord and find out what He wants of us as an individual.
When God is ready to move, He looks for an individual. Ordinarily He does not work with large groups of people, or even a committee.
Our tendency, on the other hand, is to assume if a large number of people are not involved, nothing of significance is taking place. We tend to despise the day of small beginnings, as it were.
Another problem we have is believing God could use us as an individual. We have somewhat of a sense of inevitability. God could use someone in the past or future, but not me and not now.
I remember in Bible school it used to be said God is looking for someone who will "go all the way with God." I used to rebel against that idea, believing it is incumbent on all of us to do Godís perfect will.
I still feel that way. Yet I can see that few people seem to lay hold on the great promises of the Scriptures, such as: "He who believes in me, the works that I do he shall do, and greater; because I go to the Father."
The promise is there. Let us cast off the feeling of inevitability and believe God can do greater works through you and me. It certainly wonít hurt to ask!
I do not know if Paul was told, when he was in Paradise, the scope of the fruitfulness that was to be borne through his letters to the churches. Maybe he just plowed along, like the rest of us, doing what was in front of him.
But who could have known at that time what his letter to the saints in Rome would mean to believers for the following two thousand years!
Let us live with our eyes on the Lord. Let us be ready to do whatever He says, without doubting for one minute that His command is possible to carry out, and significant.
I think the Lord told me on one occasion that whoever would obey God completely would make things possible to the Lord that otherwise would not have been possible. Isnít that a mighty thought? Letís obey God perfectly and see what happens.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, (Ephesians 3:10)
The above is an unusual verse. It is saying, as far as I can see, that God speaks to various highly placed spiritual personages through what He does with the Christians.
I donít know how far we can carry this concept. My thought is that God became somewhat disgusted with the rebellion of the angels. Eliphaz mentioned that God charges His angels with error. What God may be doing is showing the great spiritual lords that He can bring forth conquering spirits from the dust of the ground.
I have had the feeling God did not address the rebellion immediately other than to cast the rebels from the highest Heaven. I believe all that has transpired on the earth from the time of Adam and Eve has been one long explanation to the angels regarding Godís attitude toward them, and toward the rebellion in particular.
It may be true that the Ten Commandments were written for Satanís benefit so he would understand what God demands.
I may be mistaken but I believe the revelation of Godís will comes first through the elect on earth, and from here is made known to the creatures in the heavens. "Give ear, O heavens"!
I know God is judging His elect at this time, both the living and the dead. We all are coming to perfection together.
We really do not understand the relationship between people who are alive on the earth and those who are deceased. We have an extensive mythology based on "mansions," but I do not believe it portrays what actually is true.
I think the heavenly scribes listen to what is coming forth through Godís people on the earth and are taking notes.
We may suppose those who have died will have their doctrine corrected. I doubt this. My guess would be that people who believed and taught a pre-tribulation "rapture" still hold to that after they die. They wouldnít believe a teacher on the earth who told them their doctrine is unscriptural. Why would they believe someone after they die?
So we have a lot to learn, and I would not be surprised if we will learn it while alive on the earth. Whether we will find out more merely by dying is not clear to me.
In any case, it seems the history of the earth is one great audio-visual lesson being presented for the benefit of the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
According to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:11)
God has a purpose. We have been called according to Godís purpose, Paul says. This fact brings me peace of mind.
When I was in Bible school, many years ago, I gained the impression that God was waiting for us to go out and save the world. Right while we were in the Bible school, souls were sliding into Hell and no one was doing anything about it. It made me feel nervous and guilty.
I became so distressed over this thought I went to the Lord. I said, "I am not going to live like this. I will do anything or go anywhere you want. Just give me the grace to do your will. From now on it is up to you to save the souls from Hell."
This is what I said and this is what I meant. And I still mean it.
After a while I came to the conclusion that God knows exactly what He is doing. He has a purpose. He has not left it up to us to charge out and save as many people as we can. He is in control. His ways are restful and peaceful. When we are living so we can hear His voice, He gives us some small task. This we are able to perform joyfully. There is none of this guilt about why we are not out saving souls.
Those who wish to carry this burden are free to do so. As for me, I am content that God knows exactly what He wants and has the power to do it.
God commanded us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers. God commanded us to pray for the Holy Spirit that we might be able to help others. We are to pray as He has commanded, and this is not grievous. His commandments are not grievous. His yoke is easy and His burden light.
But the great Babylon, man-directed religion, would have us grinding at the mill, never having the confidence of knowing that God is completely pleased with us.
God always accomplishes His eternal purpose. He raises up people to work with Him. It is a case of the mouse working alongside of the elephant. When the mouse attempts to haul logs without the elephant, the mouse is strained beyond endurance and not much is accomplished.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
We Gentiles do not appreciate the ready access to God that we have. If you are acquainted with the Tabernacle of the Congregation you realize the distinct levels of holiness of the priesthood and of the Tabernacle structure. Only the High Priest, and he only once a year, was permitted to approach God and sprinkle the atoning blood upon and in front of the Lid of Atonement.
But through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we can come to God any moment of the day and night, seeking wisdom and strength to meet the temptations and problems through which we continually are passing.
God is delighted every time we come before Him with freedom and confidence. God has been working toward this endBthat His creatures might be able to come to Him. He has begun the program of reconciliation with the members of the royal priesthood. Eventually every saved person living on the earth will be able to approach God confidently.
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. (Ephesians 3:13)
When we read the Book of Second Corinthians we become aware of the hardships that Paul endured. He experienced numerous tribulations and rejections. In addition he was suffering from an affliction, probably a disease of his eyes. Paul always was being brought down to death in order that the resurrection power of Christ might lift him up. Then the overflow of power brought life to others.
There is much talk among American Christians about power with God. I think we picture ourselves in air-conditioned comfort stretching forth our hand, working miracles of healing, while multitudes are slain under the power of the Holy Spirit.
However, resurrection life proceeds from crucifixion. I do believe God wants to express His power in our midst as never before. But in order for this to happen, some of us must be willing to accept the death of the cross in our lives.
If others are to live, then we must set aside our own life that Christ may live in us.
So Paul asks us not to be discouraged because of his sufferings on our behalf. Paul wants us to rejoice and glorify God, understanding that He who brought Paul low and then raised him up did so for our benefit, and will raise us up also.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, From whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (Ephesians 3:14,15)
If my understanding is correct, Godís family consists of His elect, His Israel, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth. One day His name will be written on us. We belong to God in a way not true of the rest of the people of the earth.
The people of the earth who are not members of the royal priesthood also are Godís children. He loves them and will save each one of them who is willing to acknowledge that Jesus is the only One who can save us from our sins; and that He is our rightful Lord, having been appointed by the Father
But Godís elect, the members of the royal priesthood, are called by Godís name. We are a people peculiarly Godís own.
Paul is ready to pray for us. Letís see how he will pray. Is it the same prayer that we would pray for Christian people?
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, May have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, And to know this love that surpasses knowledgeóthat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
First of all, Paul is appealing to the "glorious riches" of God. I think sometimes we gain the impression that God is limited by our limitations as to what He can accomplish in and through us. He is not limited by what we can or canít do, only by our faith and obedience. Who knows what God will do in and through someone who believes in the glorious riches of God and is totally obedient?
God is not demanding that we dredge up some goodness out of ourselves. He is more than willing to bless us with all spiritual blessings from His glorious riches. Therefore, nothing is impossible as far as our spiritual growth is concerned.
Second, Paul is praying that we may be strengthened with power in our inner being. The saints in Ephesus to whom Paul is writing had been saved and filled with the Spirit, as we use those terms. Now Paul is praying that they will be strengthened in their inner being. Strengthened for what purpose?
Third, strengthened so Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. I donít think it is preached very often that we need more of Christ after we have been saved and filled with the Spirit. But we do. During his entire life as a Christian, Paul was seeking to gain Christ.
Being saved and filled with the Spirit is just the beginning of our redemption. There is a whole program of gaining Christ that needs to be pursued. God is making us aware of this at the present time.
Fourth, We being rooted and grounded in love. We speak much in America about love, but we usually are thinking of our human love. Godís Divine love, which is the greatest of all forces, grows in us as Christ grows in us. Divine love enables us to rise above those who slander or irritate us, and view them with detachment if not compassion.
It is not that we become foolish or maudlin. It is that immature people, and all manner of fears and irritations, are below us because we have a peace that the world cannot injure. We become more like our Father in Heaven, ignoring the riffles and eddies of life, and doing good as we have opportunity. We need prayer for this level of maturity, donít we?
Fifth, may have power. Righteousness is an issue of power. The more power we have, the more righteously we are able to behave. If God gives us enough power we can overcome all the deceptions of the enemy. If we prove victorious in the battle today, the hour will come when we have enough power to compel righteousness among the nations of the earth.
Sixth, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. The love of Christ is a force that can grow within us until all spiritual darkness has been dispelled.
It is love that surpasses knowledge. It is love that compared with human love is like the ocean compared with a teardrop.
Seventh, that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. First we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, if we cooperate with the Spirit, keeping the Word of Christ, the Father and Son will come and make Their eternal abode with us.
The Lord Jesus Christ is filled with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They dwell in Him without measure. Also, the Father has made Him the Christ and Lord of all.
Here we find the Apostle Paul stating we are to be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." How can dust be filled with the fullness of God? If it were not in the inerrant Scripture I would not believe such a thing.
However, I do not intend to stagger at the promise of God. If the Word says we can be filled with all the fullness of God (think of it!) then that is exactly what I want.
If we have been called to be a "saint," then our role in existence is to be a room in the Fatherís House.
Philosophers have questioned who man is; how his identity is established. The Bible asks: "What is man that You are mindful of him." Probably the most important question there is.
Well, when we are one of Godís elect, we are the House of God. That is our role in eternity.
Once we grasp the fact that we are a room in the eternal House of God, then we ought to live according to that fact. This means we ask God about everything we do. Asking God about everything we do, and obeying God, is called "the rest of God."
From the beginning of the world, God has planned the life of each one of the members of the royal priesthood. The sooner we realize this and look to the Lord for what we are supposed to do, the more fruitful our life will be and the greater our reward when the Lord comes.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21)
Now to Him, referring to God the Father. The Father is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, according to His power that is working in us. We can ask and we can imagine the fullness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit living in us for eternity. According to the inerrant Word, the Father is able to do "immeasurably more" than that. Do you believe this? I do! God can and will do more than I can imagine. This I fully believe.
To the Father be glory in the Church; to the Father be glory in Christ Jesusóand this to all generations for eternity.
The idea of each one of us being a room in the great House of the Father may be the central emphasis of the Scriptures. God did not express this in the beginning when He created Adam and Eve. But there are glimpses of Godís thoughts in the Prophets.
This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? (Isaiah 66:1)
Stephen said the same thing at the time of his martyrdom.
I think as we approach the closing of the Church Age the idea of God making His resting place in His elect is going to be emphasized by the Holy Spirit. This means we must follow the Spirit as He directs us to confess and turn away from our sins; as He helps us come out of the present world system that we may follow Christ; and especially as He impresses us to obey God instantly and accurately in every situation throughout the day and night.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)
We understand Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
"A life worthy of the calling you have received." You know, there is not nearly enough being said today about living a life worthy of our calling as members of the royal priesthood. There is far too much emphasis on our being saved by the worthiness of Jesus Christ. Actually there is no doubt about the worthiness of Christ. But there may be doubt about our being worthy of Christ and of the Kingdom of God.
In the Old Testament, God said He required of people that they act righteously, that they love mercy, and that they walk humbly with God. God still requires such behavior.
We have been forgiven through the blood atonement. Granted. But we still have to act righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God if we are to please God.
We have been baptized in water. We still have to act righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
We have been filled with Godís Spirit. We still have to act righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
The blood of atonement is not an alternative to Godís requirement.
Water baptism is not an alternative to Godís requirement.
Being filled with the Spirit is not an alternative to Godís requirement.
Speaking in tongues and prophesying are not an alternative to Godís requirement.
No amount of church attendance, giving, or ministry is an alternative to Godís requirement.
If we do not act righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, we are going to hear: "Depart from Me, I never knew you" no matter what miracles we performed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is much wickedness today both in the ministry and in the rest of the believers. People are convinced that their religion is a substitute for godly behavior. They are going to suffer intense fires in the days to come.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
There are many such statements in the Bible. You wouldnít think so to listen to much of the preaching. Too often the people are being "fed" grace-rapture-Heaven. If it is not that, it is "go out into the highways and along the hedges and force them to come in." If it is not that, it is an emphasis on prosperity or some other fanciful novelty. How many preachers are emphasizing godly behavior?
Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Bear with one another in love. God insists on these, and all the grace in the world cannot serve as an alternative.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)
Every pastor knows how readily and rapidly roots of bitterness and dissension can spring up and cause problems in a congregation. We have to watch diligently, making every effort to prevent these. Continual prayer is needed if the church is to remain in love, peace, and joy.
Satan always is looking for someone who will listen to his accusations so division can be introduced into the assembly. When this happens, the fruitfulness and testimony of the church is impaired.
There is one body and one Spiritójust as you were called to one hope when you were calledóOne Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
I think the stress on one Church, one Body, relates back to the "one new man" of Chapter Two, as well as to the one eternal Temple of God. The emphasis was needed at that time because of the difficulty of reconciling the Jews to the idea of Gentiles being a partaker of the Divine salvation.
I suppose it is difficult for any of us to believe there is only one true Church, the Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb. Once we become part of Christ there no longer is Jewish or Gentile identity. And there is no other religious group that is favored of God, except that the physical land and people of Israel are part of Godís plan for the future.
We know from Jesusí prayer in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John that the members of His Church are to be one with each other, and one with Christ in God, just as Christ and the Father are One. This is a total oneness that is accomplished as each of us learns to live by eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood. It is a oneness of Substance and Spirit.
So we see there is the great Babylon, which is man-made, man-activated religion, including the Christian religion, and then there are the members of the one Body. I expect there are members of the one Body in most churches that call themselves Christian. But there may be only one or two in a given assembly.
For example: the only true Christians are those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus each day. How many of those do you know? Do you see what I mean?
Then too, the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation divide the church members into those who overcome and those who do not.
So it appears there is a Church within the churches. In the last days, Babylon will become a home of unclean spirits. Then the true members of the Bride of the Lamb will have to come out of the babylonish institutions. I donít believe time is here yet, although some believe it is.
As far as religious institutions becoming a haunt for every unclean spirit, we see this in the Pharisees who cried for the blood of the innocent Jesus. We see this in the murder of so many thousands of innocent believers by the Catholic Church. Satan loves to inhabit Christian organizations and fill them with self-seeking leaders who donít know the Lord. That is why there are so many different denominations, each seeking their own advancement.
I myself look forward to the day when there are only genuine disciples, true Christians, living by the body and blood of the Lord, all of one mind in the Lord. How does that sound to you?
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (Ephesians 4:7)
Every member of the Body of Christ has been given grace. By the way, notice the use of the term "grace." Today the word is defined as "forgiveness." This is not a complete definition. "Grace" is used in several different ways in the New Testament. "Grace" is used in the above verse to mean the ability to contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ. Each one of us has something to give, and we need to present our body as a living sacrifice to God in order to determine what our contribution is to be.
Once we know the particular form of the grace that has been given to us, whether teaching, or showing mercy, or healing the sick, we are to serve God in this manner, being very diligent in the use of our gift.
Our individual grace is our talent. If we use it well, we will receive more grace to use in building up the Body of Christ.
If we do not use it well, giving our time and attention to many other things, our grace will be removed from us, given to another, and we shall be thrown into the outer darkness.
This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Ephesians 4:8-10)
We know there are places beneath the surface of the earth where spirits are confined. There are some who teach that when Christ ascended He brought the righteous dead from beneath the earthís surface up to Heaven. This is why we see Samuel being called up from the ground by the witch of Endor, whereas the same was not true of Abraham, apparently. When the selfish rich man called out to Abraham from Hell he looked up. Also, Moses and Elijah were with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.
I see no reason to question this teaching.
"He gave gifts to men" is taken from Psalms 68. When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebelliousóthat you, O LORD God, might dwell there. (Psalms 68:18)
Following the thought in Ephesians, the Psalm probably should read: "you received gifts for men, even the rebelliousóthat you might dwell there." Or the thought may be that the Father gave gifted people to Christ for the purpose of creating a resting place for the Father and the Son.
The reference is to Mount Zion. The ascended Christ gave gifts to the believers, even to the rebellious; or Christ received gifts consisting of the believers, even the rebellious, that God might dwell in Zion, that is, in the Body of Christ.
So we see the one new Man serving as the place where God is to dwell.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11)
The apostle is sent from Christ with a mission. The apostle establishes doctrine. He or she also starts churches. He comes from Christ with a fresh word so tradition from mouth to mouth does not accumulate error, as gossip does when information goes from person to person.
The doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture" is erroneous. No apostle coming from Jesus Christ would have anything to do with such an unscriptural teaching. The unscriptural "pre-tribulation rapture" is one part of a tradition that is an accumulation of errors. This is why apostles are needed in every generation. They hear from Christ and speak to Godís people.
As Paul pointed out, an apostle is a servant of Christ and of the churches. He is not some great personage whom people are to regard with awe. I think this viewpoint often is held; but an apostle is nothing more than a believer who has been entrusted with Divine grace in order to lay a foundation of truth on which other servants of Christ may build.
The prophet speaks the present burden of the Spirit and confirms the teaching of the Apostle.
The evangelist proclaims the good news of the soon coming to the earth of Christ and His Kingdom.
From my point of view, the pastor-teacher is one ministry. This is how it works out in practice, it seems to me. The pastor patiently instructs Godís people and feeds them, after they have been brought to Christ by the apostle and evangelist.
I envision four ministries, not five. Perhaps the four ministries are symbolized by the four bars that held in a straight line the upright boards of the Tabernacle. In this case, the fifth bar, running from end to end, would be Jesus Christ.
Another thought is this: nowhere else are these four ministries held to be different from the other gifts and graces given to the believers. So I am not one of these who makes a big point of trying to figure out who is an apostle; who is a prophet; who is a teacher. I say find your ministry and perform it, and others may or may not give it a name. It simply does not matter.
We will know when there is an apostle among us by the mighty signs and wonders that follow his ministry. Until then we can call one another "brother" or "sister."
To prepare Godís people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12)
I have heard it taught that the meaning of the above verse is that the four ministries prepare Godís people so they can go out and evangelize. I see nothing in the context that indicates this is the meaning. I do not notice in the Book of Acts that the purpose of the apostle or evangelist is to prepare the believers so they can "win others to Christ."
My personal opinion is that the common emphasis, at least in Evangelical churches, is that it is the duty of every believer to go out and "win others to Christ." I do not know the source of this unscriptural emphasis. But I rather suspect it is of Babylonóthe pressure for more and more people in the organization.
I do not view this pressure as a positive force in the Kingdom of God. I think it comes from the adamic mind, not from the Spirit of God.
It can be noticed that religious organizations keep a careful count of their converts. Perhaps this is necessary for governmental purposes. But it certainly is not scriptural. It was Satan who provoked David to number the people, as I remember.
I have heard ever since I came to Christ that I was supposed to go out and save others. I was uncomfortable with that idea then, and I am still uncomfortable with it. If anything, this emphasis prevents people from finding out what their role actually is.
I believe we would be more in line with the Scripture if we encouraged people to find out what their role is, what particular grace they have been given, rather than to saddle them with the idea that they are supposed to go our and "win others to Christ." I know some have this ministry, but I see no scriptural basis for insisting that everyone has the ministry of personal evangelism.
It is absolutely true that every member of the Body of Christ is a witness of God, a representative of Jesus Christ. But in most instances he or she does not bear witness by preaching the Gospel, but by living as the Gospel commands. It is our good works that are our light. It is our righteous, godly behavior that causes people to glorify God.
What then does the following verse mean?
To prepare Godís people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12)
It means God gave to certain believers the gift of being an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist, or a pastor-teacher, so the one receiving the gift can be prepared to serve the Body of Christ, that it may be built up.
The above interpretation is in line with the context. I canít see that the other interpretation has anything to do with the context or with the way the ministries operated in the Book of Acts.
In any case, the end product of the ascension gifts is as follows:
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
There is not a hint here that the purpose of the ministries is to add numbers of believers to the churches. The purpose clearly is to build up each believer to maturity in Christ.
Today we stress numbers of people as the index of ministerial success, as the fruit we are to bear. However, the New Testament stresses spiritual maturity as the index of ministerial success, and the fruit is seen to be love, joy, and peace, not numbers of people.
In fact, the end product as outlined here is so far removed from the present state of the churches as to be unbelievable.
Unity in the faith does not mean we all believe the same doctrine. It is not unity in doctrine but in the faith. Unity in the faith means each of us is living by looking to the Lord Jesus continually rather than by trusting in our own wisdom and strength. This is how the righteous are to live.
Doctrinal unity is an exercise for theologians, not for members of the one Body of Christ.
The knowledge of the Son of God is speaking of the knowledge of Christ that Paul was seeking until the end of his days: it is the personal knowledge of Christ; the inner growth of Christ until we are filled with all the fullness of God; it is attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Such maturity cannot be attained, it appears to me, until more of the ministries and gifts of the Spirit are operating than is true today. How God is going to move us from the pastor-congregation model to a full operation of the members of the Body, I do not know. But I donít think we can just go out and do it. God has to teach and empower us if we are going to be successful in having the full operation of the members of the Body of Christ.
"The whole measure of the fullness of Christ"! Can you imagine what it will be like when each of us reaches such a level of spiritual maturity!
Since the Bible speaks of this standard of maturity, stating Christ has given various gifts and ministries until we all reach this high level; knowing that very, very few Christians are even approaching the maturity mentioned here, what conclusion can we draw? Beyond all doubt, the Scripture shall be fulfilled precisely as written!
My conclusion from this is that the ministries will continue to operate after our death. Or else there are going to be very few members of the Body of Christ.
And why not? Will we cease growing after we die? I certainly hope not. I envision our growing in Christóperhaps for eternity. And it may be true that the ministries and gifts of the Spirit will continue to serve in the next world, at least for a season.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)
"The cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." Paul in another place refers to those whose god is their belly.
Is it true today that there are ministers of the Gospel who take advantage of the lack of wisdom of the believers? I am afraid so. I know from experience that pastors and evangelists will stoop to all kinds of skullduggery to draw people after themselves.
For example: they will plant people in a meeting to stand up and say they will give a thousand dollars. The purpose is to encourage others to give a large offering. This is just one example of the devices that are used to collect a great deal of money. Perhaps the overemphasis on grace has caused such scoundrels to believe Christ is overlooking their lack of integrity because they are doing Christian work. But He is not, and they shall find that out when He confronts them with their deviousness.
Such wolves will preach anything that will attract people and cause them to give their money. They will sell anointed neckties that are guaranteed to heal every disease. They may purchase five thousand ties at five dollars each and sell them for a hundred dollars each. Then they will say they have prayed earnestly over each tie. The truth is, they have hidden the profit from their income tax report and have laughed about the gullible believers who have purchased the cheap tie, thinking they would be healed.
After the service they will ask, "What was the take?" referring to the offerings. This is the level at which they operate.
Jesus Christ is a simple Man, a plain Man, a Man who values absolute integrity and sincerity. The parade of fast-talking "ministers" in the United States had their counterpart in Paulís day. There were deceitful schemers then and there are deceitful schemers now.
I have wondered sometimes why this type of individual enters the Christian ministry. With his gift of selling and manipulation he would become wealthy in the business world. Why he would choose the Christian churches as the place to exercise his devices, I do not know. I do know, however, that Godís people are very slow to realize they are being swindled. As a result, they soon are parted from their money.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15,16)
Not being a deceitful schemer, as many are these days, but speaking the truth in love.
When I read these two verses if think of what I said previously about growing in Christ after we die physically. This does not mean we can neglect our salvation today and expect to grow after we die. If we neglect our salvation today we shall be judged unworthy of the Kingdom of God and will receive punishment after we die, whether or not we profess faith in Jesus Christ.
We will in all things grow up into the Head. Now, why shouldnít this growth continue after we die? It has been my observation that many if not most believers die in an adamic state. They still are jealous, critical, complaining, and selfish. They are not exactly prophets.
Now, if we are to have a Bride without spot or wrinkle, it looks to me like growth is going to have to take place after death. Also, those who passed away before the Christian Era are of the same Body as we and are going to be made perfect along with us.
When you think about the Bible statements it becomes clear that our growth into the Head, into Jesus Christ, begins on earth and perhaps never ends! That makes sense to me. Perhaps God and Christ still are growing. In that case, we probably will continue to grow along with them. Why not?
The Body of Christ is held together by every believer, and grows as each believer does his or her appointed work. The pastor-congregation mode does not facilitate this interaction, ordinarily. So a major work of redemption is needed before the Lord returns. It is certain Christ will not return until at least some of the Church are mature enough to return with Him and help with the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. (Ephesians 4:17)
Here we go again! The New Testament contains many such statements. The major emphasis in the United States at this time is that if we merely make a profession of belief in Christ we have a ticket to Heaven. It is as though God is waiting to forgive us whether or not we truly repent.
This is not the case. It is wonderful if the prodigal son comes home; but it is not wonderful if he brings his riotous living with him.
We must not live as the Gentiles do. (We no longer are Gentiles if we belong to Christ.) The unconverted Gentiles think futile thoughts. When we read the current newspapers and magazines in America we can see that God no longer is in the minds of many of those who are in leadership positions. They go from one idea to another: this sports figure; that Hollywood star; the next scientific discoveryóall are like comets that are prominent one day and forgotten the next. None of this is substantial or of permanent value.
We are not to be fashioned by the media. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, as we pray, meditate in the Scriptures, and assemble with fervent believers. In Jesus Christ we have permanent truth.
Having lived for many years, I can review in my mind the parade of ideas, customs, people, and events that have come into and gone out of fashion during my lifetime. Now they are objects of nostalgia. But the Truth that is Christ does not change from century to century. It is as fresh today as it was 2,000 years ago. The people of the world keep on learning new things but never come to the Truth.
We are not to live like this. We are to be representatives of the Truth!
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephesians 4:18)
People who do not have Christ are spiritually dead. They are ignorant of spiritual realities. In many instances they harden their heart so the Spirit of God cannot deal with them. They are as wandering stars in the blackest of nights, unless the Father brings them to Christ. We are not to behave as they do; we are not to think, speak, or act like the people of the world.
Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:19)
The above is true of the people of the United States at the present time. Sexual lust is as a vast sickness that overshadows the land. Every form of perversion is pursued from child molestation to homosexual practices. Hollywood, California is as a huge sewer line that pours forth moral filth into the sea of humanity. Because the Christians themselves are morally weak and not sternly obedient to God, we do not have enough spiritual power to stop the flood of filth.
It is true that many other countries, nations that used to be centers of Christianity, have sunk down in the swamp of pornography and other forms of debased activity. But it may be that America is the prime purveyor of that which is nothing more than animal lust.
Because of this, our country is going to be punished. If all the Christians were to repent, turn from their wicked ways, and seek the Lord with a pure heart, our nation might be spared. But it may be too late for that. The teaching in so many churches does not promote moral transformation, and so we all shall suffer.
I think God is going to send revival to America in the midst of the coming problems. But if that revival is to be effective it must include more than being saved, filled with the Spirit, and healed. It must"it absolutely must!"include a change from our current overemphasis on forgiveness. There must be confession of sins and turning away from them. Stern obedience to God must be set forth as essential to our entering the Kingdom of God.
Paulís warning to us that if we continue in the works of the flesh we will not inherit the Kingdom of God must be brought to the attention of Godís people. Many of them are waiting to be caught up to Heaven in an unscriptural "rapture." For them it might well be out of the frying pan into the fire.
Godís people must be made aware they are not prepared for the coming age of physical and moral horrors; neither are they prepared to enter the Presence of Jesus Christ, unless they are living in a godly manner.
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. (Ephesians 4:20)
Immoral behavior is prevalent among Christian people, including the leadership. From what I hear, many Christians look at pornography on the Internet. You would think believers in Christ would know better. But they do not. They have not been taught that they must live a pure moral life. They believe even though they look at pornography, God is not aware of this. God sees only the moral purity of Jesus Christ while they are watching pornography.
They have been taught they are eternally secure, so no matter what they do they cannot be lost. The truth is, they are lost already. They already are in the hands of Satan without realizing it.
They have been taught that God, because of His unconditional love, would never punish them for obeying their lusts. What they do not understand is that they are sowing corruption and they shall reap corruption in the Day of Resurrection.
It is not a question of whether or not God loves us. God has told us clearly through the Apostle Paul that if we yield to the lusts of our flesh we will die spiritually. It is Divine love that has told us this. Now, if we yield to the lusts of our flesh, what is going to happen? We are going to die spiritually.
If a father warns his son not to play with the fatherís shotgun, and the son does this and kills himself, does the fact that he is dead mean his father does not love him?
There are laws and principles that operate in the spirit realm just as in the physical realm. The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to change these laws. He has the ability to intervene and set aside laws, but He does not make a practice of this.
God in His love has moved on prophets and apostles so we would be instructed in the principles of eternal life. If we obey what has been written we will gain eternal life and that more abundantly. But if, in defiance of the Apostle Paul, we continue to live according to our sinful nature, then we will destroy our spiritual life and reap corruption in the Day of Resurrection.
Godís universe is orderly. Whoever does not obey the principles of righteousness and holiness brings disorder, pain, dread, destruction into the midst of Godís creatures. God teaches us how to live. If we do not live that way we shall have to be removed. God is not going to change. His principles of justice and righteousness shall not change, for they proceed from Godís righteous nature. Therefore the person who harms himself and other people by defying Godís principles of conduct must be removed or everyone else will suffer. It is as simple and straightforward as this.
This does not mean God does not love us. The father of the prodigal is not going to permit his son to return home and then make everyone else miserable!
God is not mocked. If we so despise His love and grace, not obeying what He has written to us, then we deserve to be punished. We may be saved by fiery sufferings. Or we may not be saved at all. The contemporary teaching that "we shall not surely die" comes from Satan. It is not scripturally sound.
Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:21)
I donít believe we have been taught in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. We have been taught that Christ came to forgive our sins so we will go to Heaven when we die. We have been taught that Divine grace is our alternative to living in righteousness and holiness in the Presence of God. We have been taught that Christians should live righteously, but if we do not, grace will bring us to Heaven.
But the New Testament does not teach this. It teaches us to turn away from sin and obey the Lord at all times. Our purpose is to inherit the Kingdom of God. We enter the Kingdom right now as we confess and turn away from our sins.
What does Paul say?
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (Ephesians 4:22)
Is it really necessary to put off our old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires? Will we be saved by grace if we do not put off our old self?
To be made new in the attitude of your minds; (Ephesians 4:23)
How important is it that we are made new in the attitude of our minds? If we go through life without being made new in the attitude of our mind, will we be saved and go to Heaven anyway?
And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
What if we do not put on the new self so we behave in a righteous and holy manner? Will we be saved by grace in any case? Does it really matter?
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25)
What if we do not put off falsehood? What if we do not speak truthfully to our neighbor who is a member of the Body of Christ? Will we inherit the Kingdom of God even though Paul tells us we will not?
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (Ephesians 4:26)
Let us suppose we are angry and hold a grudge against another individual. We will not forgive him because of what he did to us. Will God welcome us gladly into His Presence because we are "accepted in the beloved?" Will we continue to live spiritually even though Jesus said if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us?
And do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27)
We give Satan a foothold when we yield to our sinful impulses. We give Satan a foothold when we gossip about or slander other people. Can we do this and still go to Heaven? What would it be like in Heaven if we gossip about and slander other people? Or does our personality change after we die? If so, based on what Scripture?
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
This verse is contrary to the American culture. We do not ordinarily work so we have something to share with those in need. Yet if we work we can be able from time to time to give food and other things to poor people. Probably most churches have some form of pantry to help those in need.
As far as stealing, how important is it if we steal? Can we steal and still claim to be a disciple of Jesus? Do the disciples of Jesus steal? How does God view stealing on the part of a Christian?
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Suppose someone claims to be a Spirit-filled Christian. Yet he is given to profanity and continual joking and foolish talk. Is he actually a Christian? Is the Holy Spirit active in his life? How can we tell who is a Christian and who is not?
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
How long can we grieve the Holy Spirit of God and remain saved? How serious is it to grieve the Spirit of God? Extremely serious? Kind of serious? Not really serious? Can we be saved by grace and grieve the Spirit of God?
The day of redemption refers to the making alive of our mortal body in the Day of Christ. If we grieve the Holy Spirit, will our body be given eternal life in the Day of Christ?
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ephesians 4:31)
How serious is Paul when he says we are to get rid of every form of malice? Paul in another place stated that we are saved by grace. Does this means we can be full of malice and remain saved by grace? Why would Paul say we are not saved by works of righteousness we have done, and then turn around and tell us to get rid of every form of malice?
Numerous Christians are filled with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. Are they citizens of Heaven? Are they friends of Jesus? Are we free to defy Paul?
Does being saved by grace mean we can be filled with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice, and still find our place among Godís saints in Heaven?
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
In many cases Christians are harsh and unloving, refusing to forgive other Christians because of real or fancied injuries. They believe God forgave them, but they are unwilling to forgive others. Yet they sing hymns of praise to God during the church service. Even while they are blessing the Lord in a hymn they are harboring hatred toward other Christians. How does God feel about this? Does God see them through the blood of Jesus so their hatred has nothing to do with their salvation?
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children (Ephesians 5:1)
Are we to behave like God in all situations? Is this what it means to be an imitator of God? Did the Apostle Paul behave like God in all situations? Was Paul a dearly loved child? Are you and I dearly beloved children?
I have come to the conclusion over the past ten years that we do not understand what it means to be saved. The preaching I have heard does not agree with the Bible. The Christians are not supposed to be good, necessarily. Rather they are to believe the doctrines they have been taught, and this belief constitutes their salvation. So Paul is really wasting words here; unless we are saying all these exhortations are nice and should be obeyed, but they are not essential to our salvation. This is a peculiar way of regarding the words of an apostle of Christ, isnít it.
And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
How important is it that we pursue a life of love? Will it make an eternal difference whether or not we do this? Many believers are hateful and mean. Are they going to Heaven anyway because they say they believe in Jesus? Will they no longer be hateful and mean in Heaven? On what basis would they change? What passage of Scripture states they will change? Do you want to go to Heaven if there are hateful and mean people thereójust as long as they believe in Jesus?
Neither does God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Godís holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)
How strong is "must not be." Many of the believers in America are sexually immoral. Many are greedy. If we are immoral or greedy, does this mean we are not one of Godís holy people?
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)
How strong is "nor should there be." If you wish to hear foolish talk, just go to any Christian convention.
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person"such a man is an idolater"has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
None of the previous admonitions stated clearly that if you behave in the manner Paul has outlined you will not be saved. But the above verse does.
It says no immoral, impure, or greedy person has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. I donít think Paul is limiting his comment to the immoral, the impure, and the greedy. I think he is referring to all the unclean practices he has mentioned to this point.
Letís think about this statement. We could take any one of the behaviors mentioned so far, but letís settle on greedy.
The rich man was in Hell because he was greedy, wasnít he? He would not share his food with Lazarus.
Now, we would say today that the greedy rich man, if he professed belief in Christ, would be saved. He would not go to Hell. Wouldnít we say that? This is our current unscriptural tradition.
But Paul says no greedy person has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Is Paul saying if a Christian is greedy he or she has no inheritance in the Kingdom of God?
Can we have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God and still be saved? I donít think many people would hold to that positionóalthough I am not certain. Those who claim once we are saved we can never be lost are ferocious in their belief. So maybe they would make a case for not inheriting the Kingdom of God but still being saved.
Many Christians are greedy. Will they inherit the Kingdom of God?
To whom is the Book of Ephesians written? "To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus."
Paul said to the saints in Ephesus, who obviously were Christians, "if you are greedy you will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
Will a greedy believer inherit the Kingdom of God? Yes or no?
You might say, "Yes, if he or she repents and ceases being greedy." I would agree with you. But then we no longer are speaking of a greedy person, are we?
Suppose the person does not repent. What then? Will he or she inherit the Kingdom of God by grace?
This is the question, isnít it? Does our salvation depend on how we behave after we become a Christian? Todayís theologians say absolutely NO! We are saved by a sovereign grace independently of our behavior. "Not by works of righteousness we have done."
So the issue really is, is the writing of the Apostle Paul the inerrant Word of God?
Todayís fundamentalist scholars say, "Absolutely! We believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures."
Then Paul says, "If you live according to your carnal nature you shall die."
The fundamentalist says, "Not so. You are saved by grace and not by works of righteousness you have done." He is really married to this thought. "You are saved by faith alone," and that is the end of the argument.
The Scripture is inerrant. The Scripture is not inerrant. This is the confusion that exists today in Christian teaching.
Jesus told us to call no man our father. The Catholic religion refers to the priest as "Father." So we Protestants are not alone in saying we believe the Bible is the Word of God and then departing therefrom.
We have a grand mess today. We are pointing the believers toward eternal residence in Heaven when we ought to be pointing them toward following Jesus that they might gain victory over sin. Is it possible for us to change? We are wrong, you know, and we have churches filled with spiritual babies as a result.
I guess only the individual reader can decide whether it is possible to change; to be different from the great majority of believers in Jesus Christ.
We have been royally deceived. I think we have underestimated Satanís ability to deceive the believers.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things Godís wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 5:6)
"Let no one deceive you with empty words." Who was attempting to deceive the saints in Ephesus? What were the deceivers teaching? Was it not that since the Christians were saved by grace it was not critically important whether or not they followed the desires of their sinful nature?
Evidently there were teachers then, as there are today in abundance, who were informing the believers in Ephesus that they now were free to engage in adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, and greed, because they were saved by grace and not by works of righteousness they had done.
Such are the "empty words" that often are preached from American pulpits.
Is Paul saying if disobedient people (those who are unconverted) practice the behaviors Paul has listed, Godís wrath will fall on them? But once we become a believer we can live in the sinful nature and escape wrath, because God has not appointed us to wrath?
Or is Paul reminding the believers that sinful behavior will bring Godís wrath down on the unbelievers, so donít act like them or you also will suffer wrath?
What is the sense of what Paul is teaching in these verses? Is he talking about unsaved people, or is he speaking to the faithful in Christ Jesus, warning them to not act like the unbelievers? I think how you answer this will determine whether or not you become a new creation in Christ, and probably will affect what kind of experience you will have in the Day of Resurrection, and also your eternal destiny.
Just forget your doctrinal stance, step back, and try to get the sense of what Paul is saying.
Therefore do not be partners with them. (Ephesians 5:7)
Donít act like or have close relations with an ungodly person, as much as possible. And if you are forced into a relationship with unsaved people, do not act like them. There are some who believe if we act like the unsaved people we will "win them to Christ." This is one of the unfortunate results of this "winning people to Christ" business. Paul says in his wisdom, "Do not be partners with them"!
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8)
We were once darkness means before we became a Christian we told lies, were angry and unforgiving, stole, were bitter, slandered other people, were malicious, sexually immoral, greedy, and spoke obscene and foolish words.
Now we are light in the Lord. What does this mean? It means we do not behave this way any longer, because that behavior is spiritual darkness. We are to live as children of light.
We Christians talk a lot about bearing witness of Christ. We cannot bear witness of Christ if we are living in the sinful nature. People are not going to hear our words if they can see we have a sinful nature. We can preach our religion, but to bear witness is to show in ourselves the Person, way, will, and eternal purpose of God in Christ. If we do not reveal the Person of God in our behavior it is impossible to bear witness of Christ.
(For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) (Ephesians 5:10)
I have heard it said the fruit the believer is to bear is to "win others to Christ." This is not the fruit of the Christian. The fruit of the Christian is goodness, righteousness, and truth. This is the crop the heavenly Farmer is looking for.
In actual fact, goodness, righteousness, and truth will win more people to Christ than any "evangelistic" effort. "He who wins souls is wise" is speaking of righteousness being a tree of life.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)
Solomon was not a personal worker. He was speaking of righteous people who are a source of life for those around them. They win people to the righteous ways of the Lord. As Daniel said, those who turn many to righteousness will shine as the stars.
Jesus said the same thing when He mentioned that when we do good works those who watch us will glorify God.
What we have today is not a tree of life, it is proselytizing to a religion. Sometimes after people have been converted to our religion they never hear one teaching on righteous behavior, only that they should wait for the unscriptural "rapture" and tell as many people as possible about the free trip to Heaven. It is no wonder Christians are watching pornography on the Internet!
And find out what pleases the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)
How do you find out what pleases the Lord? How often are we to find out what pleases the Lord?
Every moment of every day and night. We are to live in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus. It is a way of life. It is the way the righteous live.
There are only two ways in which any human being can live. He can make his decisions based on his wisdom and experience, or he can keep committing his way to the Lord and looking to the Lordóeven for the smallest decisions of the day.
When the Bible says "the righteous shall live by faith" it means as distinguished from walking in oneís own abilities. Living in continual interaction with the Lord Jesus is another way of saying "abiding in Christ."
To tell you the truth, I have not met many Christians who keep looking to the Lord and obeying Him in every detail. But this is the "rest of God" of which the Book of Hebrews speaks.
Find out what pleases the Lord at every point of decision from the moment you wake up in the morning. He will guide you as to how much sugar to put on your oatmeal, and little things like that. I realize there are millions of people today who are too poor to have any breakfast at all, but I know the Lord will help them also if they will look to Him.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)
Why are the actions of the sinful nature fruitless, unlike the actions of the Holy Spirit which are fruitful and win souls to Godís ways? It is because lying, hatred, stealing, malice, slander, greed, foolishness, and obscenity are darkness and death. They do not bear good fruit, only corruption and destruction. Such behavior is of Satan. It is not a blessing to God or to people.
The common belief of Christian people is that the purpose of the Christian salvation is to bring us to Heaven. It is not. It is to save us from the works of the sinful nature so we can live in Godís sight and have fellowship with Him. Salvation is not a change of where we are, but of what we are. Once we are saved from the sinful nature and begin to show forth the Personality of God, we bring life and health wherever we are.
The idea of escaping Hell and going to Heaven is a mythological way of presenting the Gospel. Rather, the Gospel has to do with eternal life and eternal death. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. Sin brings torment and death, and that is why our present world is filled with torment and death.
To carry immature believers up to Heaven so they can express their immaturity there is of no help to Heaven and of no help to the people of the earth. We do not bring life and healing until we bear the fruit of Godís Character and are filled with the Spirit of God. Then we are at home in Heaven and are a blessing there. We also are at home in the earth and bring blessing and health here. We are at home and bring blessing everywhere because the fullness of God is dwelling in us
You can understand, therefore, that everything depends on our obeying Paulís exhortations in this section of the Book of Ephesians.
For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. (Ephesians 5:12)
It is true in America today. We have no idea of the practices that take place behind closed doors. We do know there are numerous murders each day, along with rape and child abuse. But as our culture keeps drifting farther from its Christian foundation, and the churches preach a free trip to Heaven rather than righteous behavior, Satan is finding unhindered expression in people. And Satanís unhindered expression is more depraved than anything we can imagine. People become far, far worse than animals in their disgusting practices.
And if I am hearing from the Lord, our culture is going to become even more morally depraved and violent as time goes by, unless and until the Lord intervenes.
But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, For it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:13,14)
It is difficult to remember that Paul is still speaking to the faithful in Christ Jesus. I have never heard this verse preached. Have you?
I think Paul is telling the Christians who are living in the sinful nature to wake up. They are asleep. If they awaken from their life in the sinful nature, Christ will shine on them. After studying the context, I cannot see any other meaning.
Perhaps it was true in Paulís day as it is today. Of a hundred people in an assembly, maybe four or five are really pressing into Christ. The remainder come to church, give, serve, but retain their old adamic nature. "You have a few names in Sardis," this sort of thing. I remember reading where C. T. Studd remarked that of the thousands who professed salvation (it was in Africa, I think) only a handful were really following Christ. It was so in Paulís day. It has been this way throughout history. It is the same today.
For I am afraid when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (II Corinthians 12:20,21)
So among the mass of Christian believers there are a few who are walking in the light of Godís Presence. I do not know what will happen with the remainder. I am certain of one fact, however, and that is only those who gain victory over sin will eat of the tree of immortality. God will never, never, never clothe a sinful personality with a body like that of Jesus Christ. How it will all work out I do not know; but the Bible is clear that the promises of life and rulership are for the victorious saints, and no one else.
We are so impressed with numbers of people that it is difficult to realize out of the millions of Christians, only a Gideonís army will be used to defeat the enemy. But it is so. Perhaps the warlike remnant of today will bring victory to all of Godís elect. Maybe this is how it will work out.
Be very careful, then, how you liveónot as unwise but as wise, (Ephesians 5:15)
Have you ever heard a preacher say "be very careful how you live?" I never did. Maybe we ought to go back to the New Testament and preach what it says instead of what we think it ought to say.
Not as unwise but as wise. We Christians need to hear more preaching about wisdom. Sometimes we act foolishly. I think it is because we have a sense of sins forgiven (whether or not this sense is from the Lord, I do not know) and this makes us giddy. Sometimes the people of the world act more sensibly than we do.
Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:16)
Christians often waste time. I donít think they realize we are in a warfare. They live their life as it pleases them, seemingly ignorant of the spiritual warfare that is going on around us.
I believe we are going to answer to the Lord for the way we spend our time.
Have you read in Daniel about how the good angels are fighting against the wicked angels? And we canít decide whether to go on a picnic or to the beach!
I understand we need opportunities to relax and be with our family. But from what I have seen, believers are often far too lax in their approach to life. They do not understand the world is a battleground, not a playground. While they are reading the comic strip in the newspaper, Satan is planning how to lead them into a snare.
Are we taking full advantage of every opportunity to press into Christ and to do His perfect will? Are we enduring hardship as a good soldier of Christ? If not, we are going to be held accountable. The Lord is going to ask us why we wasted our time when so many people in the world are almost totally ignorant of God.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lordís will is. (Ephesians 5:17)
To understand the Lordís will we have to pray without ceasing. In America there are numerous areas of interest, a great many opportunities open to industrious people. Therefore it is difficult to pray without ceasing. We are distracted continually, and there always is the pressure of the need for money.
I suppose if we were a more contemplative society, such as is true of India, we would not have as much trouble keeping our mind on the Lord.
It is so easy to run through the check of the Spirit! We have to be listening, listening, listening to Jesus at all times. Whether we are in church, at home praying, at a picnic or a party, we must keep listening to Jesus.
The Lord stands at the door of each Christian heart today. He is knocking. He also is speaking. But that voice is not loud. We have to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. We are to open the door as we would to a guest and allow Jesus to enter. When we do He will dine with us. He dines on our obedience and adoration. We dine on His body and blood.
We are to be dining together in this manner seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Only then will we be able to understand what the Lordís will is.
It is a new day for us Christians. Perhaps we have not been challenged to this extent previously.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
Alcohol and the Spirit of God seem to have a similar effect on the central nervous system. This is why when the Holy Spirit first fell, as recorded in the Book of Acts, the disciples were accused of being drunk.
I realize the cultures of several countries regard drinking wine as a normal practice. This is not as true in America. I realize also that the Apostle Paul suggested to Timothy that he drink a little wine.
I have noticed that when people drink alcohol, and then prophecy, there is something wrong. It is as though you can hear the alcohol in the prophecy.
The Nazirite in the Old Testament was not permitted to drink wine, or even eat raisins! I wonder what is behind this injunction. Is wine not holy? Perhaps God did not want the Nazirite to be influenced by any spirit except that of God.
My opinion is that for those who are seeking to live in full victory before the Lord, no alcohol of any kind is acceptable under any circumstances. We have to be listening to Jesus, conscious of His slightest attitude, every moment of every day and night. Therefore there must be nothing in our system that would detract from our consciousness of Christ.
There are times when we are undergoing medical treatment that we must be drugged in some manner. God certainly understands this and responds appropriately.
Sometimes medicine is taken to treat depression. Again, God is not against doctors or medicine. But if we are not taking medicine under a doctorís supervision, then the Lord expects us to live without chemicals that alter our consciousness.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:19)
This is a high standard of conduct, isnít it? Actually, the standard of Christian experience assumed by the Apostle Paul, when he speaks of our being "in Christ," is substantially higher than the standard regarded in the United States as "Christian living."
If we expect to be resurrected or transformed when Jesus appears, then we absolutely must present our body a living sacrifice. We absolutely must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus each day. Anything less than this is not defined as being "in Christ." "The dead in Christ shall rise."
The believer who is "in Christ" is always talking to the Lord; always singing to the Lord. Maybe the day will come when we actually speak to one another in spiritual songs. We are to be rejoicing in the Lord continually. "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice"!
Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
As we go throughout our day, we constantly are encountering problems and solutions to problems. Problems are a blessing, because they are an occasion for prayer. Their solution is an occasion for thanksgiving.
We can plow ahead each day, making decisions based on our judgment and experience. Or we can keep holding each decision before the Lord, looking up to Him at each moment. The moment we feel the tension of a problem we ask the Lord for help. Help! Help! Help! And concerning the smallest details!
You have a pain. Before you do anything else, ask the Lord to remove it. If it persists, ask the Lord whether or not you should seek professional help. Commit your way to the Lord; He will assist you and direct you.
"Should I do this or that?" Keep looking to the Lord. As success comes, be careful to give thanks to the Lord. The solution may, and usually does, come about in such a manner that you begin to think there never was a problem after all. Give thanks!
It is not unusual for God to work a miracle in a personís life, and then have the individual remark that they only imagined the problem. They donít give thanks to the Lord for answering their prayer. Their answer may not come as quickly the next time!
God likes to be asked. Remember that. God likes to be asked. When you have a problem, bring it to the Lord. And as you are praying, remember to thank God for the blessings you already have received.
Give God thanks for everything, in the name of Jesus.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
If it just said "submit to one another" we might have a difficulty with this. But when it adds "out of reverence for Christ," then we can do this. If we keep looking to the Lord, when we submit to another person as God leads, we really are submitting to Christ.
When you see someone who always has to have his or her own way, then you know person is living in the adamic nature. Adam has to have his own way. This is not a pleasant person to be around.
Moses was the meekest man in the world. The mature saint is meek, humble of nature, teachable. Such inherit the earth. The proud, arrogant individual who forces his will on everyone, may be admired in America. But he or she is not admired by the Lord.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
In order to understand the proper role of a wife we have to go back to Adam and Eve. God created Eve as an appropriate provider of support for Adam. This means she was to stand with him and help him as he sought to do Godís will in the earth.
I wish this concept were more prevalent in America. I wish girls would decide before they even date, before they are betrothed, and before they are married, that the man they have selected is worthy of their lifelong support.
This usually is not the case in America. Dating, betrothal, and marriage are based on "love." People "fall in love." It has been my observation through the years that such "love" is not genuine love at all but the attraction of one physical body for another. Usually the inward nature of the person is not perceived until months after the wedding.
Neither the man nor the woman enters the marriage for the right reason. The man because he is attracted to the appearance of the woman. The woman because she is attracted to the appearance of the man, or because she sees in the man an opportunity to fulfill her ambitions.
How many American women enter marriage with the thought that their purpose henceforth will be to stand alongside the man and encourage and strengthen him as he confronts the numerous problems of life? How many women have considered that the man they are about to marry is worthy of their spending their entire life helping him achieve Godís will?
A penetrating question, isnít it? Yet in the beginning God said, "It is not good that a man be alone. I will create someone to help him." Isnít that what the Bible says?
The American domestic scene often is a horror because the marriage was not based on the idea that the woman married the man to help him fulfill his role in life.
Until a woman assents to this concept she should not be married. She is going to be disappointed if she enters marriage for any other reason.
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Ephesians 5:23)
These are difficult roles to fulfill. First, in America at least, the wife does not view herself in the role of helper, in many instances. Second, the man because of his immaturity does not earn this level of respect from his wife.
It is easy to accept Christ as our head in that He is so infinitely superior to us in every way. In the United States, however, the people who are married are often of the same age and experience. So we do not have a valid comparison.
However, if the man will serve Christ with all his might, and the woman will perceive her role as standing alongside and helping him, there should be no reason why the arrangement cannot be as Paul says here. However, this is a great demand to place on both the man and the woman. The man because he may not wish to strive for such a high level of maturity; the woman because she may find it difficult to accept the spiritual leadership of the man.
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:24)
This pattern has to be worked out in the individual marriage. It is not reasonable for the man to suppose because he is male, his wife has to do as he says. Sometimes the man wants to attend parties and drink alcohol, whereas the woman feels that drinking alcohol is a sin against her body. What should she do? She should do what she feels the Lord would have her do regardless of her husbandís opinion.
If the husband is walking with the Lord he will not bring his wife into this kind of conflict. He will respect her devotion to the Lord and not expect anything of her that would violate her faith.
Paul said the wife should submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. This is the concept. It is not just that the wife submits to her husband, but it is that she submits to her husband as the Church submits to Christ.
Now how does the Church submit to Christ? Christ is never harsh with His people. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you know how patient and gentle the Lord is. He does not drag us around by the hair.
Sometimes women want to direct the man. This is not scriptural. Sometimes men want to have their wives obey them like a slave. This is not scriptural. The wife is to submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ. She is neither his master nor his slave.
One of the major problems with marriage is that each person has a self-will. This means if there is to be peace and joy, each partner must be willing to compromise his or her own desires so the other person can have some choice in the decisions that are made. If one person always insists on having his or her own way, then the other must continually absorb the pain if the marriage is to hold together. In this case the one who absorbs the pain becomes the priest of the home and grows spiritually, and the other partner remains a spiritual baby as long as he or she lives.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)
The love of Christ for His Church is sacrificial. Christ gave Himself up on her behalf. This is the true role of the husbandBto give himself up for his wife.
As a general and not exclusive rule, women often reason with their emotions and make statements that appear to be perverse. Like Sarah, who blamed Abraham after Abraham did what Sarah instructed him to do.
The man may realize what his wife is insisting on is not logical. If he responds with a logical argument he is wasting his breath. His task is to accept the illogic and not hold his wife to account for her illogical statements or conclusions. Such restraint requires spiritual maturity on the part of the man.
If the man is the type of person who must bring every issue to a logical conclusion, who cannot let a situation rest until he feels justice has been done, and the wife is determined to cling to her emotional illogic until her husband agrees with her, then a great part of the marriage will consist of each partner trying to convince the other that his or her way is the one that is fair, wise, and will be fruitful.
The spiritually mature husband will pray until he has peace, and then attempt to bring peace to the situation. Confronting his wife at this time, pointing out that she is unreasonable, will pour gasoline on the fire.
If the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, then he must be willing to be the peacemaker in the home. He must let some things go when he sees there is no reasonable solution.
If the wife is the one who always has to play the role of peacemaker while her husband continually attempts to force his will on her, then she becomes the priest of the home. He is a baby and is not able to help his wife live a happy, productive life in the Lord.
To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (Ephesians 5:26)
The above verse reminds us of the bronze Laver that was placed in front of the door to the Tabernacle of the Congregation. I view the Laver as symbolizing the Scriptures. As we follow the Holy Spirit, He may bring a particular passage of our attention. When He does, we can see our sins as in a mirror. Then we are to confess our sins and vigorously denounce them and turn away from them
In this manner we grow in holiness. We are to wash our face until the dirt is gone.
And to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:27)
I regard Ephesians 5:27 as a crucial passage.
It seems to me that just about all of Christendom views the Gospel of the Kingdom incorrectly. We seem to assume the purpose for the coming of Christ was to forgive the sins of mankind. This is true as far as it goes. Through the blood that was shed on the cross of Calvary, an atonement was made for the sins of the world.
However, if all Christ did was to forgive the sins of people, there is no hope for the future. We can look forward to a Heaven that is filled with all the problems of relationship that are present in the world of today.
If all God did through Christ was to forgive our sins, we are totally undone. It really would be best we never had been born.
The Lord Jesus came to forgive people and transform them. The forgiveness apart from the transformation is useless, because the person will only sin again.
The forgiveness of our sins is the foundation on which the structure of salvation is built. Salvation itself is the bringing forth of a new creation that is free from the sinful nature, and that is filled with the Life of Christ.
Our future is not one in which the people of the world have been forgiven, but one in which the people of the world have been transformed into the image of God. Only then will there be peace on the earth.
The Church is the firstfruits of mankind. The members of the Church are the first who will be made perfect in Christ.
Now let us think about what we mean by perfect in Christ.
"A radiant Church."
"Without any other blemish."
Such a Church would be perfect in Christ.
"But," some will insist, "this means radiant by imputation. Without stain by imputation. Without wrinkle by imputation. Without any other blemish by imputation. Holy by imputation. Blameless by imputation."
We have been accepted in the Beloved. God says we are radiant, so we are radiant. God says we are without stain, so we are without stain. God says we are without wrinkle, so we are without wrinkle. God says we have no blemishes of any kind, so we have no blemishes of any kind. God says we are holy, so we are holy. God says we are blameless, so we are blameless. No matter what kind of character and personality we have, no matter how we behave, God says we are perfect in Christ.
This is what is preached today, although it may not be drawn out as finely as I have done. It is magic. It is Gnosticism. It is a paper kingdom. It is totally useless to God for His purposes, and it is totally useless to mankind as a witness of Godís Person, His ways, His will, and His eternal purpose in Christ.
Christian thinking and preaching is flawed by this warped interpretation of Paulís teaching of grace.
There are numerous fine programs today designed to help Christians live a successful life in our culture. There certainly is a need in America for psychological counseling and other professional advice, along with the prescribed medication.
But all of these programs assume even though we never gain victory over sin, the safety net of grace is underneath us. We still shall go to Heaven by grace.
What good would it be to go to Heaven if Heaven is filled with people who entered there by grace if they still were worldly, lustful, and self-centered? They would fill Heaven with their problems just as they have filled the earth with their problems.
The Scripture teaches us that after death comes judgment. It does not teach us that after death come salvation and deliverance from sin! I know of no passage that tells us death will solve our problems of behavior or change our character. Do you?
The Bible tells us when the people of the Kingdom will be delivered from their sins. The truth is contained in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew. The messengers of God shall go forth and remove sin from the members of the Kingdom, and finally the members themselves will be removed if they do not repent.
This cleansing will take place in Heaven and on the earth at the same time, according to my understanding. It has to, obviously, if the whole Wife of the Lamb is to come to perfection together.
It is my point of view that the program of removing sin from the Kingdom of God has commenced, and will continue throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age (Millennium).
The removing of sin from the Kingdom of God is prefigured by two Levitical feasts: The Blowing of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement.
There shall be an unblemished Church. Each member shall be delivered from the love of the world, from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and from self-will. It shall happen. Some believers may rebel, clinging to the myth that God does not see their sin. They shall be removed from the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the doing of Godís will in the earth, not a fantasy in which God pretends that we are not what we actually are.
I do not know enough of the history of the Christian Church to understand what steps brought us to the doctrinal confusion we are in today. Perhaps the churches have always understood that the Christian salvation has to do with bringing forth new creatures who behave righteously. Perhaps it is the influence of Humanism that has resulted in the current overemphasis on grace. Whatever the forces may have been that have produced todayís doctrine, it is essential that we return to the Scriptures and discover what God expects of us.
Christ is going to have an unblemished Church. This part is clear. How we are going to get from here to there I am not certain, except for the passage in Matthew that I have mentioned.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the churchófor we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:28-30)
Husbands are to consider their wives as their own bodies. When we love our wife we are loving ourselves, for God has made us one flesh. Since this is the case, the man is to take care of His wifeís needs with the same concern he shows toward his own body.
As far as I can tell, Paul alone of the apostles understood that the Church is the Body of Christ. It seems the Lord Jesus entrusted to one individual the major doctrines of His Church.
Remember, when Paul spoke of "Christ" he was thinking "Christ." The anointed Deliverer who came and is to come has a Body. I capitalize "Body" to distinguish the Church from the physical body of Christ.
The Servant of the Lord, of the Book of Isaiah, is ChristBHead and Body. The Servant of the Lord also is Israel; so we understand ChristBHead and BodyBis the eternal Israel of God. (However, God has not forgotten His original people. God will turn again to them as soon as the full number of Gentiles have been grafted on the Olive Tree.)
We see once again the "one new Man" of the second chapter of Ephesians.
We understand from this that all denominations are scaffolding. When the time comes for the members of the Body of Christ to flow together and be revealed to the world, the scaffolding will drop away. For there is only the one Body of Christ, and all of its members shall have been brought to perfection in Christ by the working of the Spirit of God.
This fact suggests to me that the return of the Lord probably is several years away, for we are not nearly prepared at the present time for His coming.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)
God put Adam to sleep and drew forth a part from him. On this part God fashioned a helper suitable for Adam. Every part of Even came from Adam. There was no part of Eveís physical body that did not come from Adam.
We understand, therefore, that Eve was Adam in another form.
In like manner God put Christ to sleep on the cross. Then God drew forth from Christ His body and blood. On this body and blood God is fashioning a helper suitable for Christ. Before the Spirit of God is finished working, there will be nothing in any of the members of the Body of Christ that is not from Christ.
We are married to the Lamb by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. We eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lamb of God.
The marriage is taking place now. When the Lord returns, and His Bride is united with Him in public view, the true marriage will already have taken place.
This is a problem with the grace-rapture-Heaven teaching. It focuses the mind of the believers on an outward event they hope will take place some day in the future. By so doing they may miss the marriage that is taking place today, as Christ stands at the door and seeks entrance into our personality.
"The two shall be one." I donít believe we understand today the totality of the union with Christ into which we are being called. We are too prone to become occupied with the elements of our religion instead of looking toward Jesus and interacting with Him each day on a personal basis. In this respect we are as the Jews, who still are looking for Christ to come. When He came they missed Him because they were more occupied with their religion than they were with the living God.
It is the people of prayer who will discover what Christ is doing today; who are able to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
This is a profound mysteryóbut I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)
The truth is, the reality of the Body of Christ, and our union with Christ, are a mystery to the present hour. How many sermons have you heard about Christ being in us? We still are occupied with the Christ of history. We do not seem to realize once Christ has declared His intention to govern from within us, then it is the Present Christ who ought to be of interest to us.
Christ wants to be real to us. He wants us to live by His Life. His body and blood are waiting for us to turn from our sinful nature so we can be nourished with incorruptible resurrection Life.
Paul said we do not know Christ after the flesh any longer. As we serve the Lord patiently He is conceived and formed in us. Then there is an inner revelation of Christ which actually is the Kingdom of God.
So there is the internal kingdom and the external kingdom; the internal Christ and the external Christ. It is the internal kingdom and the internal Christ that are of supreme importance. When the internal is developed in us, then the external will fall into place.
This is why religion, although its purpose is to help us to know the Lord and worship Him, actually proves to be a hindrance when it focuses on the external rather than the internal. The work the Lord is doing today in His Church is internal. When the internal has been accomplished, then the external will come into being.
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
The husband is to love his wife and care of her as Christ cares for His Church, His Body. The wife is to respect her husband. And I would add, to respect her husband as to the Lord. She is showing respect to her husband in order to please the Lord. It is a way of showing respect to the Lord.
Sometimes the husband behaves in a shameful manner and is not worthy of anyoneís respect. In that case the woman must pray carefully in order to find out what the Lord would have her do about this.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)
There is a prophecy in Malachi that I am familiar with; but there is a detail in it that just came to my attention:
See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5,6)
I sometimes have remarked that God insists the hearts of the fathers be turned to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. I know this is extremely important to the Lord.
What I did not notice previously is that it is to be Elijah who will accomplish this. I have never heard anyone speak of this fact. Have you?
We know John the Baptist came in the Spirit and power of Elijah and introduced the people of Israel to the Lord Jesus.
It is my opinion that the two witnesses of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation represent a double portion (Elisha anointing) of the Spirit and power of Elijah that will enable the saints to bear witness of the soon return of the Lord to the earth.
If I am correct in this, then we ought to see an emphasis today on reconciling the fathers and their children, as we approach the last-day revival.
America does not have a good track record in this regard. In numerous instances the fathers are involved in work the children do not understand, such as scientific research or corporate strategy. The father may work long hours and find that he does not have the time or strength to be with his children. If the mother also works the problem is greatly compounded.
In prior days in America, where there were many farm families, the boy and girl were helping on the farm from early ages. But now, unless the father is a carpenter or auto mechanic, or something of this kind, the boy cannot understand what his father does for a living.
There are several forces in America that militate against a strong relationship between the father and his children, and the mother and her children.
I mentioned the gap between the fatherís vocation and what the child is able to comprehend.
Sometimes in the public schools there is, or was when I was involved in public education, a tendency to despise the values of the parents, and in insidious ways to suggest to the children that the values of the parents are not to be emulated.
Oftentimes in various media presentations, television programs, commercials, the father is depicted as a buffoon, a ludicrous, bumbling person who behaves in a silly manner.
Of course, homosexual marriages are destructive of the familiar pattern of a family.
It often is the case that for one reason or another, the father leaves his wife and children, and the mother has to work and does not have enough time for her family.
If the father or the mother work all day, when they come home they are tired. The child may have done something dangerous or destructive. It is asking a lot of a parent who is drained mentally and emotionally to act calmly, to sit down and patiently attempt to find out the reason for the childís action.
Yet, if this is not done, the child may be scolded or even punished severely for an action which, if the parent had understood, would not have been cause for punishment.
Working parents often do not know where their children are or whom they are associating with.
All of the above are typical family experiences in America, and they are not conducive to reconciling the parents and their children.
However, it seems to me we are at the beginning, or close to the beginning, of the revival of the last days. This revival will be conducted under a double portion of the Spirit of God, as I understand it. Perhaps this increase in the Glory of God will somehow result in the reconciliation of family members.
I think we all have a tendency to think of "revival" in terms of great numbers of people filling a building or tent; multitudes coming to the altar and receiving Christ or being filled with the Spirit.
But what if the revival of the last days did not come like this? What if it were a case of individual people confessing their sins and turning away from them; or taking steps to accomplish the reconciliation of the children to their fathers? Would we recognize these individual steps as genuine revival?
"Honor your father and mother"ówhich is the first commandment with a promiseó"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." (Ephesians 6:2,3)
The promises of the Law of Moses had to do with health and prosperity on the earth. The promises of the new covenant usually have to do with the Kingdom of God. So it is interesting to see Paul bringing an old-covenant promise into his writing. This is because Paul did not think in terms of a gap between the two covenantsóthe gap that is perceived today because of the unscriptural philosophy of Dispensationalism.
I have no doubt it is true that if we honor our parents we very well may enjoy a long, happy life. However the Apostle Paul did not receive this blessing, did he? This is because when the hand of God is on us the normal blessings that should accrue to us, sometimes do not as God is perfecting His witness in us. We are laying up treasures in Heaven and shall receive the desires of our heart after God has accomplished His will in us.
We in America have a problem submitting to authority. Our nation was conceived in rebellion. So God is especially pleased when we are willing to submit to authority, beginning with our parents.
Sometimes it is difficult to honor our parents if they are drunkards or immoral. But we are to ask God for help so we can fulfill His Word in our situation.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
I mentioned before that a father who is drained physically and emotionally may find it difficult to reason with a child who appears to be willful and rebellious. The father, perhaps without meaning to, may be harsh and unreasonable. Slapping a child and yelling at him or her may eventually drive the child away from us. When he is old enough he may leave the home, having hate and anger in his heart toward his parents.
This is not the way to train a child. Training a child requires much time and patience. If we do not have the time we need to pray that God will give us the time. This may necessitate that we forfeit a promotion or a chance to make more money. At the closing of our life we may discover our children were worth infinitely more than all we gained in our mad pursuit of the riches of the American culture.
Hopefully we will discover the value of our family before it is too late.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, (Ephesians 6:5-7)
We Americans are strongly opposed to slaveryBmore so than some of the other countries of the world. This is because of the sordid history of the slave trade in the United States.
Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far. I do not mean by this that we should return to buying and selling people. I mean, rather, that our attitude toward service is not always as Paul is teaching here.
There is nothing wrong with obeying an earthly employer with respect and fear.
There is nothing wrong with obeying someone who has oversight over us with sincerity of heart, just as we would obey Christ.
Our Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. Politically they should be; but in terms of intelligence, talents, health, and opportunities, people are not equal.
It is given to some people to lead us. There is no need for us to strut around in our independence and declare that "nobody is going to tell me what to do!" If we have an employer, and he or she agrees to pay us a certain amount of money for a service we perform, then we should obey him with respect, fear, and sincerity of heart, just as we would obey Christ.
It is difficult for us Americans to accept the fact that someone has authority over us. But when we reveal the attitude that Paul mentions, God is pleased.
God always insists on government. We need to honor those over us and pray for them. God is going to place people over us in His Kingdom, so we would do well to accept such authority now. We must never be among those Americans who feel free to shout insults at those in authority.
Because you know the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. (Ephesians 6:8)
It is plain to me that the Lord rewards those who make an effort to do good things. Somehow the idea of doing good seems to have been lost in current "grace" teaching; and the result has not been constructive.
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (Psalms 37:3)
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come outóthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
We certainly have gone overboard when we insist that "all of our righteous works are as filthy rags." This particular phrase had to do with a specific circumstance in the history of Israel. But we are taking it today to mean God does not honor our attempts to do what is good. We are in error in this!
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Can you see that God was speaking to the Israelites of that time? He was not saying if you, in the year 2003, behave with integrity and kindness, God regards your efforts to do good as filthy rags! Yet this is the kind of unscriptural advice that is given today.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Ephesians 6:9)
When we are placed in a position of oversight or leadership, God will observe how we treat those who have been placed under us. We are not to be self-seeking or arbitrary but are to be considerate of each individual we are supervising, making sure he is treated fairly and that his needs are met.
The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: "When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth." (II Samuel 23:3,4)
If we are in a supervisory position it is well for us to keep in mind that Christ supervises us just as He does those whom we oversee. Therefore we are not to be threatening and cruel, for we all are Christís slaves.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)
I was in a meeting not too long ago when several men and women spoke of their Christian life. Different topics were mentioned. These were people who had been addicted to alcohol or drugs and had found the Lord.
The prevailing thought seemed to be that we cannot reach perfection. Therefore we should behave each day as well as we can, realizing we can never be perfect and that Christ forgives that part of our conduct we havenít been able to bring into Godís will.
I know there is some truth in this and that these individuals had been horribly bound and were now slowly gaining ground in the Lord Jesus. It all was good, very sincere and honest. I canít always say that about what goes on in Christian churches.
Yet I wanted to stand to my feet and declare that each one indeed can gain full victory in Christ if he or she will press forward! press forward! press forward! Perfect victory is there for each one of us. But it requires that we never draw back, and that we exercise courage.
I did not make such a proclamation because these were tender plants. But I did quietly comment that it was important not to quit, but to be courageous. Hopefully that word will drop as a seed in some of the hearts that were present.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." We can choose to be strong, to exercise militant faith, to press into our inheritance like Caleb of old. "Give me this mountain!" I know God honors those who boldly lay hold on His promises. This kind of courageous boldness reveals faith in the faithfulness, power, and goodness of God.
Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devilís schemes. (Ephesians 6:11)
Notice that we do not arm ourselves against Satanís power but against His schemes. Satan cannot come against us with power, because we trust in the blood of Christ; and Satan cannot overcome the righteousness of the blood.
Rather, Satan attacks our mind. He is a master deceiver. If he can, he will seduce us until we remove ourselves from the Lordís protection. When this happens, it will not be long before we are sinning.
Any Christian who believes that because he attends church, or prays, or reads his Bible, he cannot be deceived, has been deceived already. We have to put on the full armor of God if we are to be able to stand against deception. We also have to carry our personal cross each day. In many instances, when people are deceived it is because they are not willing to carry the cross that has been assigned to them.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
I think it is important that this verse be emphasized more than it is. It appears the Christian churches often strive against people. They rail against the abortionists and the homosexuals. I have not observed that the railing does any good. Have you?
The problem is not the people or the government or foreign governments or their peoples. The problem is the spiritual authorities in the heavenly realms. They are pleased when we fight against people. Then they are controlling both us and the people we are fighting against.
The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, the Apostle Paul says, but have Divine power. That means they are employed by holy people who pray and seek Godís will. They cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring every thought into subjection to Christ.
America is in moral turmoil. No amount of Christian political or physical action is going to halt the abortions or change the homosexuals. Only godly people who are praying will make a difference.
When we struggle against people, no matter how wicked they may be, we are tilting at windmills. People act as they do because of invisible spiritual forces which are guiding and driving them. When we pray, we come against the actual enemy, not the hapless victims of Satan.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
We are to prepare ourselves to stand in the day of evil. The effect of the unscriptural "rapture" teaching is to prevent this necessary preparation. The "rapture" doctrine says we will not be on the earth during the day of evil. So we should not be overly concerned about preparing for that which we never shall experience.
Can you see how destructive the unscriptural "rapture" teaching is? Of course we are going to be caught up together with the resurrected saints of all ages to join the Commander in Chief in the air. But this is preparation for the cavalry charge of Armageddon, not an escape from pain or the Antichrist.
Notice that the emphasis is on standing, not on attacking. Even the sword of the Spirit is to be used as a defensive weapon.
When we truly receive Christ (and are not merely the proselyte of a religion), we are raised with Him and ascend to live in and by Him at the right hand of God. This places us on the highest of all thronesBfar above every other authority in the universe.
Now our task is to maintain, to defend our position.
Many forces will seek to take our crown. Many distractions will come to our attention. Numerous temptations will arise that endeavor to draw us down into our sinful nature. Evil will parade in front of us, inviting us to fret, fret, fret over the spiritual darkness we are seeing.
Satan will do all in his power to coax us down from our high place in God. Satan does not possess the power required to tear us from the hand of God. If Satan is to gain control over us he must persuade us to love the world, or yield to the lusts and passions of our flesh, or follow our self-will and personal ambitions.
We need the full armor of God if we are to remain with Jesus Christ at the right hand of God.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)
The belt of truth. There are two kinds of truth. There is truth that answers the questions where, when, what happened; and then there is truth that answers the question "whyBwhat is the significance of this?" The Lord Jesus Christ is the second kind of truth.
The Ten Commandments do not command "You shall not lie," although other passages of the Law do. I have wondered about this. But I think the reason may be that all sin is a lie. Making an image and worshiping it is a lie. Using the Lordís name insincerely is a lie.
In terms of the first kind of truth, sometimes falsifying information is not a lie. When Rahab lied about the spies, God interpreted this lie as faith and blessed her accordingly. To lie is to deceive someone for no reason other than to take advantage of the person for our own gain. To lie to the Nazis if we had hidden a Jew was not a lie. To lie to the authorities about where persecuted Christians are worshiping is not a lie.
But lying to seek our own gain can earn us eternal residence in the Lake of Fire if we do not repent of it, whether or not we profess faith in Jesus Christ.
It is the nature of Satan to lie. It is the Nature of God to tell the truth. When we lie, whether or not we are a Christian, we are speaking with the voice of Satan.
Actually, the entire world system is one great lie. As we read the newspaper we can see how the governments of the world lie to one another. Also, what we read is itself slanted in terms of the editorial policy of the paper. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is able to tell us the true significance of things, relationships, and events.
The belt of truth supports us. A lie weakens us and opens a door in our personality through which Satan is able to enter.
No liar will be permitted to eat at the table of Jesus Christ. All liars shall have their place in the Lake of Fire.
The breastplate of righteousness. God is a God of righteousness. The scepter of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is a scepter of righteousness. God will not be present where there is unrighteousness, except in times of revival where a special work of the Holy Spirit is taking place.
Sometimes a minister of the Gospel behaves unrighteously, but people are saved and filled with the Spirit under his ministry. This is difficult for the believers to accept. They suppose if someone works miracles and cast out devils, it is a sign he or she is righteous.
Are people actually saved under an unrighteous minister? Yes. Are demons actually cast out? Yes. Do genuine miracles take place? Yes.
The Holy Spirit gives ministries and gifts that are effective. If the minister is righteous, his gift builds up himself and those who hear him. He then shall receive a reward.
If the minister is unrighteous (and some of the Christian ministers in the United States are self-seeking liars, thieves, adulterers, and worshipers of their own belly), the gift will accomplish its purpose in others. But the minister has disqualified himself. He will be thrown out of the Lordís Presence. The Lord never knew him. If he is saved it will be by prolonged, intense fires over a long period of time.
The entire Bible states that God blesses the righteous and gives them life. God curses the wicked and gives them death.
The error termed "Dispensationalism" teaches us that the Bible is incorrect. Dispensationalism, the concept that we now are in a different dispensation during which we please God by stating our belief in Christ apart from righteous behavior, is the greatest lie of all. Why is this? Because it maintains that personal righteousness of behavior no longer is necessary to please God. We can say we believe in Christ and then do the works of Satan. Our common sense ought to tell us better than this!
We have been terribly deceived!
Righteousness has to do with how we treat other people. Righteous behavior is kind, gentle, courteous, merciful, slow to anger, loving, truthful, morally clean, patient, helpful, generous. It seeks the good of others. It puts God first, others second, and self last. It is faithful, filled with honesty and absolute integrity. It is dependable, true to what is says. God and man can depend on a righteous person to do what he says and to do it faithfully.
Righteousness is the image of God. It is what God isBhow God behaves.
I think I am correct in stating the Christian ministry of today often is not characterized by righteousness. Sometimes there are more political and monetary considerations behind the decisions that are made than there is prayer and obedience to the Lord Jesus. It reminds one of the days of Isaiah and Ezekiel.
Oh, the ministers may rail against abortion and homosexuality. But these are not the problem. The problem has to do with sin in the ministry and in the congregation. Grace is preached instead of integrity.
Go into any Christian church. See if the emphasis is on personal integrity of character. The probability is you will hear about grace-rapture-heaven; or else some kind of analysis of the world problems and suggested solutions, according to the concerns of the particular minister.
Will you hear about how you should treat other people? Perhaps.
Will you hear about being kind to others? Maybe.
Will you hear about being gentle? Probably not.
Will you hear about being courteous? Probably not. I make an effort, particularly at Christmastime, to be gentle and courteous toward the clerks in stores. They are tired and harried. Sometimes they are single mothers who are trying to earn enough money to support themselves and their children. It is not of God that we should be impatient with them when they make mistakes or when we are not getting exactly what we want. We can bear witness of Christ without preaching the Gospel, just by being gentle and courteous.
Will you hear about being merciful? Probably not.
Will you hear about being slow to anger? Probably not.
Will you hear about being loving? Probably so.
Will you hear about being truthful? Probably not.
Will you hear about being morally clean? Perhaps not. There have been some incidents reported lately about an unusual number of pornographic movies being checked out of motel libraries when a Christian convention is in town. There have also been some concerns about the moral behavior of Christian chaplains in the armed services.
I have no way of knowing whether or not these reports are factual. However, I do know the pressure of sexual lust is so extremely powerful in the United States that if the Christian ministry continues to overemphasize grace and imputed righteousness, and neglects to point out to the congregations the necessity of absolute moral purity, numerous ministers and other believers are going to succumb to the abundance of opportunities to satisfy the sexual lusts of the sinful nature.
The minister of the Gospel is not going to condemn sexual lust with enough vehemence if he himself is not fortified in this area of behavior.
God will not be present where there is sexual immorality no matter how loudly belief in Jesus Christ is voiced. Sexual immorality dissolves our strength of character, and produces silly people.
Sexual lust affects people of all ages, beginning with elementary-school children and extending to senior citizens.
Will you hear about the need to always tell the absolute truth? Probably not. It would not be uncommon for the minister himself to tell lies when it is to his advantage.
Will you hear about the need to be patient, especially when circumstances or people irritate you? Perhaps.
Will you hear about the need to be helpful? Perhaps, especially if this means to help around the church.
Will you hear about the need to be generous? Yes, if it has to do with giving to the church.
Will you hear about seeking the good of others? Perhaps.
Will you hear a sermon devoted to putting God first, others second, and yourself last? Not likely.
Will you hear about being faithful to your commitments? Not likely, unless it is in the context of giving money to the church.
Will you hear about how God honors honesty and absolute integrity? Probably not. It seems to me that our culture no longer emphasizes honesty and absolute integrity. Perhaps we do, to a certain extent. But people are cynical about politicians and they are cynical about preachers. They understand the ministers of the Gospel are not always honest, or people of integrity.
The Christian ministry has not, in many instances, shown itself to be people of integrity in the area of money. There is a considerable amount of "robbing of widows" that goes on. The believers are told that if they will give the minister a hundred dollars, God will give them back a thousand dollars. This is nothing less than thievery. Anyone who believes the Lord Jesus Christ is a party to such a swindle knows very little about the Lord.
Will you hear about being dependable and true to what you say? Probably not, unless it has to do with supporting the church in some manner.
We absolutely must get back to preaching righteous behavior. We are misapplying Paulís doctrine of grace such that the Bible emphasis on godly behavior no longer is important.
Righteous behavior is to be our breastplate. When the enemy comes, and we are behaving unrighteously, he has wherewith to accuse us before God. We no longer are protected from the enemy.
Feet fitted with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. I believe this means we are to be ready wherever we are to bring the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Such preparation helps us withstand the devilís schemes in that we are able to defend ourselves and others when false teaching is presented. In America, members of non-Christian religions come to our door with their books. Sometimes Christian believers are led astray because they are not established in what they believe.
It is a marvel that people can attend church for forty years and still not be able to teach the New Testament. Part of the problem is that the church services are not conducted in a manner that will educate people in the Bible. The preaching is topical rather than expository.
Another part of the problem is that the listeners are church members, not cross-carrying disciples. As such, their minds are not prepared to understand the Scriptures.
The shield of faith. During our Christian journey we encounter numerous problems and crisesBsome of them quite severe. We must hold up the shield of our faith in the Lordís faithfulness and never, never, never give up. Over the period of our lifetime we learn that if we keep looking to Christ, the most impossible situations finally are resolved. We have come through the fire and have not been destroyed. But such victory is possible only through resolute, relentless faith in the Lord Jesus.
Sometimes people shoot a "flaming arrow" at us. We then are to go to the Lord immediately, not permitting this fire to enter us. Vengeance belongs to God, and we are to have faith that He will avenge us. We never are to permit the fires of Satan to enter us and cause the poison of bitterness to fester in us. In faith we keep looking to Jesus until our peace returns.
The helmet of salvation. I donít know how commonly it is understood, but our salvation has a great deal to do with what is in our head.
Perhaps we all know our sinful mind is hostile to God and will not submit to God.
In America we are barraged with several forms of mediaótelevision, Internet, magazines, newspapers, and so forth. Therefore we are obliged to present our body a living sacrifice to God and be transformed by the renewing of our mind in the Word of God.
I have noticed that sometimes young people who have been raised up in church love the Lord and try to serve Him. But then when they go to college their faith is destroyed.
It is no small battle to bring all of our thoughts and imaginations under subjection to Christ. We have to guard our thinking, continually praying to Jesus and interacting with Him.
Since Satanís power was broken on the cross, he attacks our mind. He attempts to deceive us by making suggestions of one kind or anotherósuggestions that seem to be coming from the Lord. One of the main purposes of elders in a Christian assembly is to watch over the younger Christians lest they be persuaded by Satan to act outside of the Lordís will.
Every Christian assembly should be organized in such a manner that each member has someone to whom he or she can go for counselBsomeone who watches for his or her spiritual safety. The devil never ceases his efforts to deceive, to seduce, to coax people out of the Lordís will, to invite people down from their high place in God. It is a never-ending battle.
The Christian salvation is largely a matter of the will. We have to choose continually whom we are going to serve. I think emotion enters into some branches of Christianity more than in others. There are churches that place emotion ahead of the will. They judge their position in Christ by how they feel. There are other churches that do not have enough emotional expression.
The balanced Christian life has plenty of emotional content, but it is governed by a will that is riveted in Godís will and Word. This is the helmet of salvation, and it protects against assaults on the mind.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Remember, the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, not the sword of the Christian. This may seem like a play on words, but I believe it is more than that.
The Scriptures cannot be used by us to build the Kingdom of God. The Scriptures can be used only by the Holy Spirit. When we attempt to use them, we may bring ourselves and others into bondage.
The Bible states we were healed by the wounds of Christ. The verb is past tense. We can say to a crippled believer, "Stand up. The Bible says you have been healed." But the person is unable to stand. Nothing happened.
Is the Bible statement incorrect? Not at all. But the Holy Spirit has to be the one who interprets what is written. When we are sick, and the Spirit whispers to us: "By His wounds you were healed," we know it soon will be evident we have been healed.
Much Christian activity has been conducted throughout the centuries, using the words of the Scripture. One example is: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Do we do this because the Bible says so, or do we wait until we hear from God?
This is an important question, isnít it? The difference is between Babylon and the true Kingdom of God.
"The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
I for one believe firmly and totally in the inspired Word of God, the Bible. But the BibleBparticularly the New TestamentBmust be interpreted by the Spirit of God.
We absolutely are to obey the commands of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. But we obey them according to the Spirit. This is to say, when we read a commandment, we do not just go out and try to obey the command. We go first to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and strength to obey what is commanded.
There are times to be quiet, and then times to be loud. There are times to tell others about Christ, and then times to just be a friend. There are times to work hard, and then times to rest. As many as are lead by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
Those who claim we are to do what the New Testament says without waiting for the Spirit to help us tend to be harsh, doctrinaire, divisive. There is little of the fragrance and joy of the Lord surrounding their personality.
I suppose it is relatively easy to use the Bible as a manual of behavior and attempt to do what it says literally and with a minimum of prayer. This approach is not much help to a pastor who is faced with the problem of people who have been divorced and then wish to marry again. One can ignore the circumstances, and the plight of the children, and recite what Christ said. Who needs the Holy Spirit? We have the Bible.
I think the Pharisees had that attitude.
The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and when used by the Spirit is a mighty power indeed. But when used by the sinful mind of man, it destroys. It murders Christ wherever He appears.
When we are attacked by the enemy, the Holy Spirit will enable us to defend ourselves with His sword, the Word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
Being able to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers is a habit that can be developed. As we learn to look to Jesus for every decision of life, it soon becomes instinctiveBlike breathing. We find ourselves continually asking for help, and giving thanks when things work out right. This practice operates whenever we are awake.
There are so many opportunities for prayer. Paul invites us to keep praying for all the saints. We never, never, never should be gossiping about our fellow believers but should be praying for them! Throughout each day there are problems, most of which are small. But occasionally a severe crisis presents itself. We never should be neglectful concerning the minor problems, nor should we faint when confronted with a major disaster. The Lord Jesus is interested in helping us with the small concern, and abundantly able to help us through a major calamity. After all, He sits as King of the flood!
Each pressure during the day is an opportunity for prayer. Each time we are harmed, or insulted, or treated unjustly is an opportunity for prayer. Soon we find ourselves praying all the time, giving thanks to the Lord continually for every issue that is resolved.
We can learn to walk in prayer if this is what we desire. This way of living is vastly superior to every other. It brings peace and the Presence of Jesus to us. We then are able to avoid the snares Satan sets for us.
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19,20)
Pray that words may be given me. Pray that I may declare the Gospel fearlessly.
You would think after God had so dramatically called Paul to be an apostle, God would give him words and fearlessness. But Paul knew God may assign a role and task, and then prayer must be made continually if the role and task are to be fulfilled.
Again, in the Old Testament when the Israelites went into battle they were to blow a trumpet so God would remember them. You would think God had not forgotten them, especially when they went into battle. But God told them to blow the trumpet!
When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies. (Numbers 10:9)
This is what Paul was saying: "Blow the trumpet of prayer so God will remember those who are oppressing me, and deliver me."
We read in Daniel how wicked angels fight against Godís angels. God gives the word, but then the wicked angels seek to hinder Godís plan.
For we wanted to come to youócertainly I, Paul, did, again and againóbut Satan stopped us. (I Thessalonians 2:18)
Each believer must pray continually in order that Godís will in his or her life may be brought to pass in fullness. I have heard prophecies given over people that never came to pass. Were the prophecies of the Spirit? Perhaps so, in many cases. But then the individual prophesied over did not pray and seek the Lord sufficiently to fulfill what was spoken. Satan managed to distract him and keep him occupied with the things of the world.
For Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. (II Timothy 4:10)
The greatest hindrance in America to spiritual life may be the abundance of attractions offered by our culture. Intense, prolonged determination is required if we are to maintain our place in Christ at the right hand of God.
Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. (Ephesians 6:21,22)
May it be said of you and me that we are dear brothers and faithful servants in the Lord. This passage gives us insight into Paul as a human being. He wanted the saints in Ephesus to know how he was faring. Also, Paul was concerned that these believers might be in need of encouragement.
I would suppose there is no greater ministry than that of encouraging the believers. We travel a long, problem-filled way and can become weary and discouraged. Every once in a while we need to have a brother or sister cheer us up so we can keep on pressing forward.
Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Ephesians 6:23,24)
I would like to comment once again on the term "grace." How would you define "grace" as Paul uses the term here? It certainly means more than "forgiveness." I would say the idea is Godís Presence in Christ enabling us to do Godís will in all circumstances. How do you feel about this?
We are to love Christ with an undying love. It is not enough to "accept Christ" and then point back to that occasion and say we were "saved" at that time. It is true, rather, that we are to press into Christ each day. We were saved. We are being saved from the world, lust, and self-seeking. We shall be saved into incorruptible resurrection life in the new world of righteousness if we endure to the end.
We must love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.